Development for cultural competency classes in the works for next spring at Ohio University - The Post: Culture

Development for cultural competency classes in the works for next spring at Ohio University

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Posted: Thursday, January 14, 2016 4:48 pm

After the “Black Lives Matter” message on the graffiti wall near Bentley Hall was defaced during finals week, students in the Black Lives Action Coalition decided to push for a new solution.

Students had an emergency meeting in the Multicultural Center before winter break, and the necessity of cultural competency classes that had been discussed prior to the occurrence dominated the ideas for a plan of action regarding students of color.

Olivia Busby, a member of BLAC, said after mulling over the idea for classes for a year and a half, the graffiti incident led to immediate action for classes in spring 2017.

“It’s always like something happens, we react to it, we get mad, we come together to discuss and that’s it,” Busby said. “There’s never any action put in place. It’s like we forget that the racism on campus doesn’t exist when it’s not making us mad or upset.”  

Busby said she wants to make the class mandatory for students of all majors.

Brittany Mitchell, co-creator of the class and member of BLAC, said both she and Busby hope to have the application completed in order for the class to be considered for next school year.

Both Mitchell and Busby said they have been helped by Elizabeth Sayrs, former dean of the University College and interim director for the College of Fine Arts,to construct the class to provide crucial learning for both students and faculty.

“We have some high quality cultural competency courses already in place at Ohio University,” Sayrs, said in an email. “I encouraged them to find faculty allies to work with to develop the course because faculty ultimately ‘own’ and approve the curriculum.”

The classes will be different compared to most classes because it will not be a “typical, hetero-normative class,” rather the professor will be used as a moderator to keep the dialogue constant between the students, student teachers and teaching assistants, Busby said.

“Right now, we don’t have to discuss … any of the specific learning outcomes, but we have to do an overview and list the details such as what days the class will be taught, what tier will it be under and things like that,” Mitchell, a junior studying political science and global studies, said. “We want to have it being a space where we talk about current issues regarding identity based conflicts and a forum where people can talk themselves out of their own prejudices.” 

Mitchell and Busby said the “Love Matters” graffiti design that got painted over the defaced wall was another unsolved problem for some students of color on campus.

“Saying ‘love matters’ is just a coded language for saying all lives matter,” Mitchell said. “That definitely did not address any of the issues students of color were dealing with at the time.”

Busby said she understood what the artist was attempting to portray, but did not believe it erased some of the more critical dialogue needed among the university.

“I could understand what they meant as in general,” Busby said. “Yeah, we should all love each other, but you can love someone and still be racist, you can love someone and still be sexist. It’s that conversation we need to have here.”

For Busby, spearheading the design of the class leaves her anxious and said she only hopes administrators will help her through the process.

“I just keep questioning the university,” Busby said. “Are they really on our side? Are they trying to help us? … I trust some people, but we have worked so hard and to see something like this not work would be a waste.”



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