A call for community dialogue and progress

| Diversity Affairs Council

The Diversity Affairs Council, a branch of Student Union, recognizes that the image posted online on Oct. 30, regardless of the intention, has hurt members of our community. As representatives of the Washington University in St. Louis student body, we are disheartened by this incident. The DAC’s main purpose is to foster a more inclusive campus environment and to serve as a liaison between the student body and the administration. As such, we would like to address our campus community directly.

It is important to understand the compounding effects of such events on individuals in our community. Although these incidents are often overlooked, every small injustice that goes unspoken and ignored makes members of our community feel unwelcome. By remaining complacent in the face of such events, we allow these acts to become the norm.

How can we, as students, ensure that we hold ourselves accountable for incidents such as this? First, we must recognize the need for change. Second, we must not be afraid to initiate conversations surrounding these issues of bias both on and off campus. We recognize it is challenging to speak up when witnessing hurtful behavior, yet we must take responsibility to make our community more welcoming. Moreover, we must take the time to ask questions and seek out opportunities for growth if we do not understand any given issue. Finally, we must learn to empathize with one another and push ourselves to explore and understand challenging situations from other, often marginalized, perspectives. It is through empathy that we can gain insights into how and why others may react to situations in differing ways. One of many such opportunities is the Redefining Community Experience retreat in January, for which applications are due soon and can be found at rce.wustl.edu.

To the administration, we implore you to join us as we move forward in our efforts to make Washington University a welcoming place for all members to safely learn and grow. It is evident that this campus requires additional resources and staff whose job it is to educate, engage and support students in matters of diversity. Additionally, we must lay the foundations to normalize campus conversations and education around identity and inclusion issues. To achieve this, common experiences surrounding diversity dialogue must be created and implemented starting with the class of 2018. The DAC also calls on administrators to take a critical look at how we recruit and retain students and faculty of all identities and how the University supports these individuals once they arrive. Such changes are crucial to making any sustainable progress within our University community.

The DAC exists to support Washington University undergraduate students. We recognize that this issue relates to many communities on campus and is not restricted to just one identity. To those who are harmed, to those who are confused and to those who feel removed from these conversations, we are here to support you. As we have faced such challenges in the past, know that the DAC, as a part of Student Union, will continue to work toward advocating on behalf of all undergraduate students and welcomes any feedback pertaining to our future initiatives.

In solidarity,

The DAC Cabinet, 2013-2014

Gaby Dinkin—Chair, [email protected]

Ryan Sasse—Director of Administrative Affairs, [email protected]

Amee Azad—Director of Student Affairs, [email protected]

Tiffini Hyatt—Director of Diversity Training, [email protected]

Iudie Lee—Director of Resources, [email protected]

Gokul Krishnan—Director of Public Relations, [email protected]

The DAC Committee Members, 2013-2014

Candace Borders, 2017; Leah Gluck, 2016; Iulia Mandel, 2017; Iayshree Balakrishnan, 2015; Tobeya Ibitayo, 2015; Shivani Desai, 2017; Shaun Kai Ern Ee, 2017; Eugene Lang, 2016; Dennis Shi, 2014; Bendel Fults, 2016; Yeshoda Karuturi, 2016; Christina Ye, 2017 ; Gaby Garcia, 2016; Bianca Kaushal, 2017; Ien Yoo, 2017;

Daniel Kennedy, 2015

  • ganesha

    Megan Zielinski’s article titled “Free Speech in Jeopardy” was recently published in the Washington University Political Review. In her piece, Megan writes about the fact that Washington University in St. Louis was featured as FIRE’s “April Speech Code of the Month.”

    Congratulations to Megan for standing up for student rights and free speech on her campus!

  • Recent Alum

    “How can we, as students, ensure that we hold ourselves accountable for incidents such as this?”

    1. There’s not a whole lot to be “accountable” for. Four people picked Halloween costumes and wore them, and some people were offended by it.
    2. Again, this was four people. Not four thousand. I know Wash U is big on group responsibility for the “sins” of a few individuals, and collective punishment and penitence is important, but maybe we should let the other 14,113 students have a pass this time.
    3. Again, four people picked a Halloween costume that some other people found to be in poor taste. Odds are they won’t wear it next year. Personally I thought it was funny, if a little dated; Bin Laden was killed in 2011. But hey, a lot of other costumes are dated too.

    I do think the student body deserves an apology from both the administration and the MSA for wasting everyone’s time.

  • Arafat

    Muslims simply despise our freedoms.

    They riot if we publish cartoons mocking their prophet but we say anything we want about Christ and Christians without reprisal.

    In their countries countless people are rotting in jails for daring to speak out against Islam. Apostasy (leaving Islam) is often met with torture.

    In the UN – thanks to Muslims – it is now all but impossible to criticize a Muslim nation. Genocide in Sudan? All but off limits. Ethnic cleansing of Christians in Nigeria, Egypt, Iraq? Off limits. Ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh? Off limits.

    But endless resolutions against Israel? Of course.

    Now Muslims are forcing their repressive ways on the West. Our freedoms are anathema to them and it begs the question: Do we want to embrace their repressive, oppressive ways or fight for our freedoms?

    The answer seems pretty self-evident to me.

  • take a step back

    There is little reason I see as to why anyone would automatically think this is a picture of Bin Laden, I didn’t. Perhaps it’s because this isn’t a picture of Seal Team 6 with Osama Bin Laden. On the other hand there are numerous pictures with American soldiers posing around innocent Iraqis and Afghanis that look like that. That might be why someone thought it was offensive, it appears to be glorifying the murder, or at least militant action toward, people of someones faith.

    • ganesha

      Offensive is in the eye of the beholder.

      Satire is protected political speech.

      MSA owes the academic community an apology for stalking and harrassing these creative artists.

      Try harder to avoid blaming the victims.

  • ganesha

    Wash-U Veterans Day 2013

    Seal Team 6 Parody = “hurtful”

    UBL sympathizers = “more welcome”

    Solidarity indeed.

    • ganesha

      For a more scholarly discussion of the phenomenon, try “Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left”
      [Olin Stacks HN90.R3 H583 2004]

      • NotSogoodAll

        Reading that would require people to challenge their views. Sadly, no one wants to do that.

  • Wut

    What was the point of this letter? This accomplishes nothing.

  • Corpulent Cucumber

    Shut up.

    >How can we, as students, ensure that we hold ourselves accountable for incidents such as this?

    We don’t have to. Not every hurt feeling is justified, and this is definitely one of those times. Everything you do will offend someone – the attitude contained in this article is offensive to a good chunk of the student body – and it’s up to others to harden up and stop whinging over every trodden feeling.

    Look at their emotional anguish as if it were physical. If a student is distracted by the horse and carriage and stubs his toe against Graham Chapel, is he justified in crying? In writing a lengthy Facebook post about how thoughtless the university was, and is he justified in calling upon his fellow students to raise hell? Ought the university and the student body pander to his every idiotic whim? No.

    If people are still babies by the time they reach college age, they’re probably a lost cause, but it’s not the job of the institution – which, among other things, alleges to help students grow and mature as individuals – to coddle them and reinforce their babyhood. One parenting technique is to ignore a squalling infant, and in so doing encourage rationality and independence. That’s the strategy we should be employing here.