OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego has launched a diversity awareness initiative this spring titled “Shine the Light on Oz,” the latest in a series of projects nurtured over the past year by the college’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management.
The campaign encourages meaningful conversation — in person and on social media — among students, faculty and staff about understanding differences, as well as being understood, in realms such as race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion and socioeconomic circumstances.
To get the spring conversation started, the campaign has established a Tumblr page (shineonoz.tumblr.com) as a sharing platform for photos and stories.
Postings so far deal with mental illness and ability, race, gender and other inclusion topics.
“This campaign is not about right or wrong. It is about having open conversations,” said Kary Jolivert, a student member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “Our mission is to encourage people to speak up. It is okay to challenge people’s ideas or ask questions, because this is how people learn from each other.”
The campaign will include a series of evening educational sessions starting March 30.
Jessica Minhas will open the series at 7 p.m. in the Marano Campus Center auditorium speaking on social justice and activism. Minhas is a frequent contributor on various media outlets on topics of human trafficking, human rights, gender-based violence, gender equality, abuse and trauma, and youth activism.
Also making presentations that week will be Oswego faculty and staff: anthropology faculty member Kevin White on Native American issues and race relations; Bill Rose of the sociology faculty on socioeconomic status on campus; Sharity Bassett of the gender and women’s study faculty discussing women lacrosse players among the Haudenosaunee; communication studies faculty member Penny Morley on cultural competence and gender issues; and “How to Be an Ally,” with Associate Dean of Students Lisa Evaneski and psychology faculty member Rebecca Burch.
Beginning April 6, the campaign will distribute gold wristbands for a campuswide conversation event.
Students, staff and faculty members wearing the bands that week will signify that they are open to conversation about inclusion topics.
“The ‘light’ (in the campaign’s title) represents bringing issues of diversity and inclusion to the forefront and to put a spotlight on issues that occur on campus daily that affect both marginalized people directly and un-marginalized people indirectly,” said Kindra Syphertt, a student member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “Light also represents the enlightenment that people within the Oswego community can gain when they talk openly and listen to each other’s views.”
Jerald Woolfolk, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, launched a campuswide task force last April to improve the college community atmosphere and to educate about issues of diversity.
College President Deborah F. Stanley recently named Woolfolk as the college’s interim diversity and inclusion officer.
The task force created the cross-campus Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which has tackled such projects as diversity training for leaders of student organizations and resident assistants and staff; an ongoing poster campaign titled “I Am Oz” to celebrate campus citizens of diverse races, cultures and ethnicities; and expanded efforts to encourage dialogue during the annual student-spearheaded Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month celebrations, including appearances by actor Hill Harper and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Blackmon.