In response to four campus “racial bias” incidents, Saint Joseph’s held a forum in Hagan Arena on Nov. 4 to discuss how to move forward. It is important to remind students to educate themselves on issues of race and diversity. One of the first ways for students to do that is through diversity courses. Diversity course content and experience exposes students to perspectives and viewpoints that they would not have otherwise been exposed to. It gives them a glimpse into another person’s world, a world that is of  a completely different background. 

 Diversity courses are not required at St. Joe’s, but are critical in gaining a diverse worldview. Photo by Mackenzie Mcbride.

Jennifer Dessus Ed.D, the director for inclusion and diversity access programs, said college is a critical time to explore. “If you’re in classes where everybody looks like you and thinks like you, you’re losing out on ways to make a greater impact,” Dessus said. Saint Joe’s offers a variety of diversity classes. However, students aren’t necessarily required to take them in order to graduate. A student can spend four years at Saint Joe’s and not be exposed to a single course on African or African American history/culture. If a student does not elect to take a diversity course, they are required to take a globalization or Non Western studies course. Furthermore, students are in some cases unaware of the diversity class selection. “Students need to be more intellectually curious, thinking about how they can be better and more of an ally, and you have to have better representation on the academic side,” Dessus said. 

The Office of Inclusion and Diversity offers guidance for students interested in diversity courses. Photo by Julianna Kissinger.

Diversity courses are important for all students to take advantage of because they educate and provide different perspectives on life. Educating yourself on something that you do not know  gives you a better understanding of the world. When taking these courses you should not just take them because it fulfills a potential requirement, but because you want to expand your knowledge on different races, cultures and ideas. 

Here are some of the diversity programs available at SJU:

  • Asian Studies
  • Autism Behavioral Studies
  • Africana Studies
  • Autism Studies
  • Gender Studies
  • Latin American Studies

Desuss added, “Allowing [those topics] to be woven into the courses gives a broader world view. If you’re going to go out and set the world on fire as change agents, you need to know about all different types of people and how to interact to make a change.” 

In conclusion, it is important for Saint Joe’s students to involve themselves in classes that concentrate on diversity. A great start to taking action is to expand your knowledge and get out of your comfort zone.Taking available courses is the first step to becoming a well-rounded and educated student. It’s not always going to be easy. “Sometimes sitting in discomfort is a good thing,” Dessus said. It helps you to see things through a different lens.” That lens is critical in order for students to have a broad and accurate view of the world. 

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