On Monday, the Goshen College Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion shared plans to roll out a hashtag campaign – #dobetterGC – and hold a series of campus-wide activities in conjunction with Student Life as a response to the homophobic and racist slurs written on campus last semester.
“We want to roll out this hashtag campaign that encourages Goshen College to be the Goshen College that we say we are,” said Dr. LaKendra Hardware, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Zachariah Begly, a leader of Black Student Union, affirms the campaign as meeting a need in the GC community that has yet to be addressed.
“We have said that we need to be moving forward in a way that is better than how we were as a community before the act of hate,” Begly said.
In a Nov. 27 campus-wide email, Dr. LaKendra Hardware and Gilberto Perez Jr., vice president for Student Life and dean of students, outlined the actions the institution would be taking throughout a one-month response period. It was made clear that all conduct and investigation processes carried out by the Bias Matters Response Team (BMRT), formerly known as the Racial Misconduct Response Team, and the GC Student Conduct team would be confidential, with no additional details made available to the public.
Since then, students have continued to voice their frustration with the lack of detail shared with the larger campus community in relation to discipline of involved parties as well as continued support for Black, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized students and employees.
Hardware explained how she hears the response of the student body and although public displayed hate speech may give the impression that the investigation process should involve the entire Goshen College community, that is never the case.
“The process is about ensuring that no matter what the case, we handle it in a consistent manner, so as to avoid issues of preferential treatment, to avoid the appearance of impropriety,” she said.
Though the investigation of the hate speech incident has concluded, Hardware explained that the work is not over. She encourages GC to focus their energy on campus-wide initiatives for better inclusion, such as the #dobetterGC campaign.
“Because of a greater awareness of incidents and experiences that our students are having on this campus, it lets us know that we can do a better job of being community together,” said Hardware. “And to encourage people to really understand and reiterate that Goshen College is a place that won’t tolerate acts that target identity and diminish people’s sense of safety.”
#dobetterGC was introduced in conversation at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakout sessions this past Monday. The idea may be simple, but the message is profound.
“These ‘do better’ activities open spaces to have inter-group dialogue for the purpose of strengthening our campus community,” Perez said. “We will strive to further empower our intercultural groups. Creating brave and courageous spaces for students impacted directly by the hate speech is important to experience solidarity, mutual support and strength.”
Hardware and Perez envision a campaign that will heavily involve Student Life resources and Campus Activities Council (CAC) in events for the broader community, though the details of these events have yet to be confirmed. This coming week, Hardware and Perez will work at putting together the student leaders who will be involved in the campaign.
“There is no place in our community for making people feel like they do not belong,” Begley said. “It’s imperative that we really work to grow and learn in understanding one another, and this campaign is calling us to do it very strongly.”
“We want people to hold a community accountable for being better. #dobetterGC.”