Expecting more from the Mosaic Project
Almost six months ago to the day, an incident occurred in Bear’s Den that revealed deep-seated tensions on campus regarding how our community handles issues of diversity. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Washington University’s administration announced plans to improve the ways we handle things like social justice, diversity and inclusion, which was an excellent first step. However, half a year later, little information on these programs has been provided, and there have been few changes in actual policy. While we applaud the University’s efforts, including the creation of a Bias Response System, we believe that more has to be done to address these issues, specifically the causes of tension, not just the symptoms.
A key part of the problem six months ago was that there was no official outlet for students who felt that they had been targeted to express their feelings. Within hours of the incident, someone had posted to the “Washington University in St. Louis Class of 2015” Facebook page to express that he had been hurt. Within an hour, the president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon had also responded via Facebook. Lacking an official channel to discuss and deal with matters like this incident was one of the main reasons that it became so polarizing and inflammatory on campus; social media became the venue of choice, and what could have been a real dialogue about these issues that would have helped our community grow digressed rapidly. While announcing that there will be a Bias Response System on campus is a good start, having such a program in place and ensuring that every student knows how to report instances like the one in Bear’s Den would have been far better.
A bias response team only addresses the symptoms, not the causes of the problem, however. Better inclusion and social justice programming, especially during Bear Beginnings, may ensure that incidents like the one in Bear’s Den will not happen again. A single skit during Choices cannot possibly be adequate diversity training for incoming freshmen.
In this light, it is a little disheartening that such little progress has been made. The student body received a letter from the chancellor last spring outlining the Mosaic Project and plans to improve diversity and inclusion training on campus. While Vice Chancellor for Students Sharon Stahl’s new message certainly indicates that progress is being made, we feel that perhaps progress is moving at too slow a pace. Assembling a team for the Mosaic Project is certainly laudable, but it is not nearly as praiseworthy as actually implementing new policies or programs that will better the lives of students and foster a more inclusive, safer environment on campus. Real changes to University policy, or even more information on what sort of changes will be implemented, would have been a better greeting to new and returning students alike.