Student-led discussion panel tackles diversity

Last night, about 60 students joined the Student Task Force for the year’s first installment of “Revitalizing Marquette,” a group discussion on issues, primarily of diversity, affecting the Marquette community.

The Student Task Force was started in response to the controversial retraction of the Arts & Sciences deanship offer from Jodi O’Brien, an out lesbian professor of sociology from Seattle University, whose works on homosexuality and Christianity raised concerns. The group is currently composed of about 25 students.

Revitalizing Marquette, which began last year, allows students and faculty to discuss a variety of topics not being addressed on campus, in a confidential, personal setting.

Jilly Gokalgandhi, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences and member of the task force, said confidentiality is promised to ensure students have a safe place to talk about the issues concerning them.

“We expect people to get emotional and uncomfortable, which is why we have the confidentiality and don’t want what happens at the forum to be revealed,” she said.

While this promise of confidentiality means specific testimonials must stay private to the event, topics discussed at the Revitalizing Marquette forum focused on diversity of all kinds at Marquette, including but not limited to differences of race and ethnicity, religion, class and sexuality. What diversity should and does mean to the university and Marquette community was also addressed.

The task force has been working on the forum since September and plans to compile a report to submit to the administration and Board of Trustees. They hope the report will help prompt change.

The event was well received by the students in attendance.

Tim Hoff, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he thought the forum was a fantastic way to initiate dialogue on the issues.

“Everyone needs to realize this is not the end,” he said. “There needs to be more dialogue between all pathways so that this will be more than just students getting together.”

Faculty members were in attendance as well, but some noted that the turnout was lower than at the last forum last semester.

Nancy Snow, a professor of philosophy, said the forum provided good discussion but that she was disappointed in the lower number of administrators there.

“I’m always waiting for students to get militant and move to action,” she said. “I’m disappointed more administrators are not here … I think they should be at the forefront of diversity initiatives.”

One administrator who was present was William Donaldson, associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. He said he has been at Marquette for 29 years and that much has changed since his first year.

He also said that although it is an exciting prospect, he believes that since students are only at the university for a short amount of time, it may be difficult to see change actually occur.

“I’ve noticed differences in the student body composition and in the faculty composition, but it hasn’t completely reflected the society that surrounds us,” Donaldson said. “That’s why I say we have a ways to go.”

He did, however, acknowledge that the university is working toward its goal of becoming more diverse.

“We need to recognize that we have made changes, but I’d be hard-pressed for anyone to say that we’ve reached where we want to go,” he said.

The Student Task Force will now work toward a forum to be held next semester and is open to additional help. Brian Mahoney, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and a member of the task force, said anyone who is interested is welcome.