The Elephants in the Room: Why OC Won’t Ignore Them
On Sept. 21, anyone walking on the Bremerton Campus in view of the Bremer Student Center, couldn’t help noticing something out of the ordinary ̶ a giant inflatable elephant looming over an outdoor living room. Onlookers quickly recognized the metaphor, a reference to the unpleasant truths that are too obvious to miss, yet still go ignored. Surrounding the display were a host of staff and student volunteers eager to explain why Olympic College chose this symbolism to give visibility to the “elephants” it is naming and confronting in order to better support student success. Check out the pictures.
Columbus Day Discussion Panel
A common obstacle to confronting elephants is the unwillingness to acknowledge and engage multiple perspectives on issues that divide us. One example is the controversial legacy of Christopher Columbus, the 15th-century explorer whose fateful arrival in the Americas is recognized as a federal holiday on the second Monday in October. He is enshrined as an American hero, with namesakes that include the nation’s capital, an Ivy League university, and two U.S. capital cities, including Columbus, Ohio, where his likeness graces the grounds of Columbus State Community College.
For some, Columbus Day marks a celebration (and vindication) of Italian-American and Catholic heritage and culture, once deemed un-American. For some, it commemorates patriotism. Yet many view it as a consecration of the enslavement, colonization and decimation of the millions of native peoples that he and the Europeans who followed him encountered. They reject claims of his “discovery,” on the ground that the lands he appropriated for the Spanish Crown were already long inhabited. About half of U.S. states, including Washington, do not recognize Columbus Day as an official state holiday, and a number of cities across the country, including Berkeley, Minneapolis, Denver and Seattle recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day.
Constructive exposure to opposing viewpoints is a critical tool for the learning and growth that are hallmarks of a college education. Rather than tip-toeing around the Columbus Day controversy, I invite you to engage it by attending next week’s panel discussion:
The Columbus Legacy: Discovery or Debacle?
Tuesday, October 11, 2:00 to 3:30 p.m.
Featured panelists are:
- James Estrella, Faculty, American Culture & Equity Studies
- Philip Schaeffer, Faculty, History
- Rebecca Seaman, Dean, Social Sciences & Humanities
This event is sponsored by the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, Center for Teaching and Learning, and Multicultural Programs. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Entering the Red Zone
In football, the red zone is the area between the 20 yard line and the goal line where a team is most likely to score. In the 5,000 plus U.S. colleges and universities, the red zone refers to the critical time between the beginning of the fall term and Thanksgiving, when research shows that new students are more likely to experience college sexual assaults than at any other time during their school careers. [i]
Across all years in college the rates of campus sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct are unacceptably high. A 2015 survey of more than 150,000 students in four-year colleges and universities revealed that nearly half had experienced some form of sexual harassment since enrolling. Among those who had been in any type of intimate relationship, nearly 1 in 10 reported having experienced intimate partner violence. Just over 4 percent of all students had experienced stalking. And, approximately 12 percent had experienced nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching by force or incapacitation since enrolling. Overall, students identifying as transgender, genderqueer, non-conforming, questioning, and as something not listed on the survey (TGQN), female, and persons with disabilities reported the highest rates of victimization. Nonconsensual sexual contact involving drugs and alcohol constituted a significant percentage of the incidents. Sadly, of those who indicated having witnessed someone acting in a sexually violent or harassing manner, more than half did nothing. [ii]
These statistics, though drawn from a survey of four-year institutions, bring attention to a problem that is also prevalent in community colleges. But, it’s not enough to recite statistics. In order to keep our campus safe, we must establish a culture where we all act as positive bystanders to prevent sexual misconduct from occurring and report it when it does. This month, all new students and employees will receive an email invitation to complete online training (Bridges, for employees, and Think About It!, for students ) designed to help you do just that.
As the College’s Title IX Coordinator, I oversee the process for reporting and responding to sexual misconduct. Any member of the college community (student, employee, visitor and contractor) who experiences or learns of sexual misconduct is encouraged to report it to the College, either directly to me, Cheryl Nuñez, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the online reporting tool, OC, Report It! in the footer of the website, so that we can take prompt steps to stop the conduct, remedy its effects and prevent its recurrence. For more information about the College’s sexual misconduct reporting and resource options go to Nondiscrimination/Title IX.
Update – Making Facilities More Inclusive and Safe
Thanks to Facilities Services Director Bob Pasquariello, privacy curtains have been installed around some of the shower heads in the men’s locker room on the Bremerton campus, and gender neutral signage is being sourced for 20 single-occupancy restrooms at OC – Bremerton, 1 at OC-Shelton, and 3 at OC – Poulsbo, to indicate they are open to all. The installation of the signs is expected to be completed this quarter. See a list of lockable, single-occupancy restrooms.
Reaffirming the Educational Value of Diversity
In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court quietly issued its final ruling on a challenge to the use of affirmative action by the University of Texas at Austin. Upholding previous rulings in Grutter v. Bollinger (University of Michigan, 2003) and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Court reaffirmed in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin that higher educational institutions have a “compelling educational interest” in ensuring that student bodies are diverse. In a joint statement to the Court on behalf of the University, the American Council on Education, The American Association of Community Colleges, The American Association of University Professors, and 35 other higher education organizations, also reasserted their belief that a diverse student body is essential to the educational objectives of colleges and universities.
This principle is grounded in evidence showing that quality engagement with diversity through structured curricular and co-curricular learning opportunities as well as informal contact advances a number of positive learning outcomes. It bears noting that these benefits do not happen simply by osmosis. They require intentional efforts by the College to attract, support and engage diverse students and employees, to leverage their diverse perspectives and contributions, and to ensure that the college learning, living, and working environments are safe and welcoming for everyone. The Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan establishes a framework for aligning and strengthening all dimensions of the College, in a manner that will benefit all students.
Have a safe and happy Halloween. I encourage you to be thoughtful when choosing your costume particularly if it includes cultural dress and symbols. Clothing and jewelry, like any other cultural symbols, carry meaning and could be considered insensitive to individuals native to these cultures.
[i] Kimble, M., Neacsiu, A.D., Flack, W.F., Jr. and Horner, J. “Risk of Unwanted Sex for College Women: Evidence for a Red Zone.” Journal of American College Health, 57, 331-337
[ii] Cantor, D., Fisher, B., Chibnall, S., Townsend, R., Lee, H., Bruce, C., & Thomas, G. (2015). Report on the AAU campus climate survey on sexual assault and sexual misconduct. Retrieved on October 2, 2016 from https://www.aau.edu/uploadedFiles/AAU_Publications/AAU_Reports/Sexual_Assault_Campus_Survey/AAU_Campus_Climate_Survey_12_14_15.pdf