Anderson University, an evangelical university in Anderson, Indiana, has scheduled racially-segregated “listening sessions” in which students may share experiences with university-assigned moderators to “objectively report your feedback to the [Racial Equity] task force”.
These sessions were scheduled by Anderson University’s “Racial Equity Task Force” following a survey about students’ concerns of racism on AU’s campus. No results or data from the survey have been shared with students, faculty, or the public at this time.
Two different categories of sessions have been scheduled. For “Students of Color”, two sessions have been set up to be moderated by a professor of dance, the director of Intercultural Engagement, AU’s “Diversity Retention Coordinator”, and a professor in teacher education.
For “White Students”, two sessions have been set up to be moderated by AU’s director of Spiritual Formation and her husband, the Vice President for Advancement, the campus pastor, a graduate counselor, and the Vice President for Enrollment, Marketing, and Communication.
These segregated categories have drawn criticisms from dozens of students and staff.
One computer science student described the campus reaction, “Pretty much every student I’ve talked to about it so far views it unfavorably. It seems like the faculty are the only ones on board with this.”
Particularly, Anderson University’s private social media groups are filled with concerns from students. One student describes this move by AU as “[their] solution to racism is even more racism.”
Several students and staff have likened the event to retreading the Civil Rights Movement and Jim Crowism in the 1960s. One professor who asked to remain anonymous for fear of university reprisal stated, “I didn’t watch my parents struggle through the Jim Crow era to watch my students funneled into ‘Colored Only’ rooms.”
In a response to the outrage, university president John Pistole stated:
Anderson University is dedicated to truth, inclusion, excellence, and service. The Racial Equity Task Force is a natural extension of these principles for us; their goal is to explore ways for us to apply our values to areas of identity, race, and social inclusion.
Pistole stood by the Racial Equity Task Force’s decision to segregate sessions based on skin color, stating this as “being highly effective for receiving candid feedback.”
The assumption that non-white individuals would share similar opinions due to having an increased amount of melanin in their skin is egregious. One would think that the former director of the TSA might understand that people from various countries and cultures do not think the same just because they have brown skin.
No further considerations have yet been made for mixed students, light-skinned black or Hispanic students, or those who grew up in ethnic or Western cultures despite Anderson University’s color expectations.
At this time, Anderson University has refused to comment on either the segregated events or President Pistole’s statement to Chalkboard Review.
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