ACT: Ask. Communicate. Teach Tolerance.
Shippensburg University is committed to identifying and addressing racial injustices and inequities on our campus and in the surrounding community. The Ask. Communicate. Teach Tolerance. (ACT) campaign seeks to stimulate a healthy, community-wide consciousness and discussions of race that confront the uncomfortable realities of racial differences (and other differences of identity).
Racial injustices have escalated around the world and nation, and have grown on our own campus, creating a divide and disconnect. As a campus community, we have traditionally relied on a dialogue of diversity and inclusion, but we believe that the institution can more proactively implement initiatives that match its messaging. The ACT campaign was developed to address the shared concerns of minority students, including:
- marginalization due to racial injustices
- derogatory language
- bullying on social media
- lack of representation
- climate of exclusion
- hostile interactions both on and off campus
- outdated policies
- questions regarding the institution’s commitment to diversity beyond rhetoric
We have concluded that the institution—our faculty, students, and the surrounding community—has an obligation to collectively examine university policies as well as personal bias to promote not only diversity and inclusion, but solidarity, by confronting discrimination, reducing implicit bias, and incorporating open dialogue on these and other differences of identity directly into the institution’s culture.
Is “diversity” enough?
Although diversity has been a major highlight in the university’s initiatives, it has become more and more evident that “diversity” itself must be more closely examined by each of us who fall under its rather large umbrella of human differences. Once individuals have an opportunity to gain a better understanding of what race is and how it is manifested in our culture, both historically and in contemporary society, then a healthy process of eliminating stereotypes and prejudices can begin, while building a stronger community-wide tolerance. Race is one of the more obvious divisions under the diversity umbrella, and should be handled differently than other divisions. Race/ethnicity is an uncomfortable topic of discussion in our society, but conditions will not improve, and reconciliation cannot begin, until there is direct action to do so.
What are the campaign goals?
- Promote Racial Understanding - To create a culture in Shippensburg, both on and off campus, that encourages community members to seek an understanding of the contemporary social construct of race and racial issues as they pertain to our country’s growing diverse population.
- Build Solidarity - To establish a well-rounded notion of what solidarity is, and how it can be practiced day to day, in a healthy manner. Our goal is to bring the larger Shippensburg community together despite ethnicity, economic status, religious beliefs, or cultural background. At the very least, we strive to promote and be examples of a greater tolerance.
- Educate - Education will begin the process of dismantling stereotypes and prejudices. We aim to educate the entire campus population—from the time first-year students arrive on campus to their walk down the aisle at commencement. We will focus on what’s dividing us and what strengthens us as a community. Because institutions of higher learning play such a critical role in the socialization of young people entering the workforce and global community, it is essential that in addition to students becoming skilled in their respective discipline, that they are exposed to diverse vantage points of the human experience.
Who benefits from this campaign?
The greater campus community, which includes, but is not limited to, students, faculty, and administration, will benefit from participating in the ACT campaign. One of the most important aspects of this campaign is educating undergraduates early in their college careers.
We provide opportunities for the Shippensburg community at large to engage in learning experiences developed through the campaign. This includes residents and community members in positions of power, such as Shippensburg Borough Police, and Shippensburg’s Borough Council.
Our goal is to bring together whites and people of color who identify with minority groups so that we can learn together as a community.
How will we accomplish our goals?
To achieve our overall goal of changing the campus culture regarding attitudes about race and ethnicity, we will use a large-scale institutional approach. Through collaboration across university departments and offices that determine and influence the social climate of the university, we can take a new direction to establish a welcoming environment. The ACT campaign will be organized as a coalition-style effort, with different offices, faculty, departments, and student organizations offering their expertise, specializations, and talents. By working as a community toward a common cause, we’re creating a bridge between different constituents of Shippensburg University that might not have the space or opportunity to engage in dialogue on such sensitive topics as race/ethnicity. Methods for achieving our overall goal include:
- Racial Intimidation Policy
- Introduce the Campaign at Orientation
- General Education course