Today, students and employees at The College of Saint Rose came together via Zoom for a community conversation focused on the violence last week at the Capitol and how we can remain a safe and inclusive campus community in the weeks and years to come.
“As we converse together today in this session, and in our classrooms, in our hallways, and in the dining hall, we will treat each other with kindness and open hearts,” said Interim President Marcia White. “Today’s conversation is not a space to explain your political position, or why you are right and someone else is wrong. This is a space to affirm that we stand for the Saint Rose values of finding common ground.”
Dr. Neenah Estrella-Luna, an educator, researcher, advocate, and consultant focusing on issues related to social justice, social relations, and democratic governance, delivered a talk to help us gain context about the recent events in our nation and offer guidance on how to move forward while maintaining our status as an inclusive community at Saint Rose.
“The thing about community is that it is hard to sustain. Staying in relationship across difference or disagreement – which exists in every community – that’s not easy. … It takes an enormous amount of strength, enormous amount of courage, and a large dose of humility to have the kinds of hard conversations that we will need to have together so that we can live our values that we have together across our disagreements,” said Estrella-Luna, who has co-led a variety of community-based and participatory-action research studies, as well as traditional research addressing questions related to social resilience, environmental justice, community development, education, and public safety, among other topics.
“Sometimes we have to remind each other what the values of our community are and who we really are as people in our community in all of our complexity as human beings, and this requires practicing some level of nonjudgmental compassion.”
Estrella-Luna advised that when we have these hard conversations and practice nonjudgmental compassion and mutual respect, we will make mistakes, disappoint people, and be disappointed by people, but that we should give ourselves and others some grace and stay committed to our community. She said successfully engaging in these conversations takes practice, but that we can start by putting ourselves in the position of not being in conversation to change the other person’s mind, but to listen and understand, and to remember that we can only speak from what we know.
“Staying in community is going to be hard, and it’s the only way to be fully human,” she said.
But there are instances, she added, when it is appropriate to break away.
“First and foremost, no one should feel compelled to stay in relationship or in community with people who are toxic to them. If you are in community where your humanity, safety, or dignity is being questioned, you have every right to remove yourself from that.”
Dr. Shai Butler, vice president for student development, reiterated points made in the message she and Steve Stella, director of safety and security, sent to employees earlier this week in light of reports of planned violence in the days ahead at state Capitols, including Albany. She also reiterated that the College has a plan for handling any violence, in the rare possibility that events two miles away at the Capitol would extend to our campus. Members of our community should be sure they are signed up for RAVE Alerts, which would relay instructions via text and email in the event of an emergency on campus. To help you navigate signing up for RAVE via Banner, view this video with instructions.
Hate speech will not be tolerated at Saint Rose. Anyone who finds themselves the victim of a hate crime should reach out to the College’s Office of Safety and Security at 518.454.5187 and file a bias report online.
During the session, the College also shared resources and upcoming programming to address the climate we are facing in our nation.
• A video from our Center for Counseling and Psychological Services on responding to events surrounding the inauguration and managing our mental health through these times can be found on this page on our website, which also includes additional resources for navigating difficult discussions.
• On Wednesday, January 20, at 3:30 p.m., the Office of Spiritual Life is hosting a virtual multi-faith gathering for the campus community called “Standing on Solid Ground: Prayers for Healing and Hope.” The program aims to help participants find hope and stability as we make our way through times of uncertainty and change. We will also remember those who have been impacted by the pandemic in any way with prayers of healing, strength, and wholeness. Access the meeting via Zoom by entering the code: 951 3426 4547 (Passcode: 012021).
• The Thelma P. Lally School of Education will host a series of virtual panels for educators and education students (as well as the general public) to address these times. The first panel, on February 4, will focus on the U.S. Constitution and classroom conversations and will provide developmentally appropriate activities for working with students in grades four through 12. A panel on supporting student mental health will follow on February 11. Details and links will be provided soon.
• The School of Arts and Humanities is also organizing a panel on civil society and the Constitution, and you should look for more information on that in the coming weeks.
• Plans are also in the works for student programming on diversity, equity, and inclusion. The first program of the semester, kicking off January 28, will be a series helping student leaders view their ability to make an impact through the lens of holistic and inclusive leadership. Students will be provided with information on how to attend.
“We are a teaching and learning community,” White said during the community conversation. “Through reading, scholarship, and dialogue, we listen to each other and try to understand other perspectives culturally, and yes, politically. That is part of our Saint Rose values. … Our campus has never had walls. We are about breaking down barriers as our founding Sisters did 100 years ago.”