iSchool dean promises faculty diversity training in wake of fraternity expulsion

April 24, 2018 at 07:38PM
via "information studies"

Between school resource availability and what constitutes “offensive” actions, about 50 people gathered at the School of Information Studies on Tuesday morning to discuss different issues in the wake of the permanent expulsion of Syracuse University’s chapter of the Theta Tau fraternity.

During the forum, which was held in iCafe at Hinds Hall, about 50 students, faculty and staff gave suggestions on how the school could better advertise complaint reporting resources.

Taesha Callaghan, a senior in the iSchool, said she has been in classes where an educator has made sexist or questionable comments, and she didn’t know there was a way for her to report it.

The Office of Student and Career Services in the iSchool, which can allow students to file discrimination reports in the iSchool and to the university, was detailed by officials during the forum.

Attendees were also told they can go to the Ombuds Office to address concerns they might have with other members of the SU community. The Ombuds Office is for faculty, staff and graduate students.

“You can go to that office for complaints about anything. And they do dig into it and try to take care of it,” said Barbara Settel, executive director of alumni donations at the iSchool.

One student said she wants the iSchool and the university to offer training on how to address offensive situations. The student said she has witnessed people making offensive comments disguised as jokes.

Liz Liddy, the iSchool’s dean, said faculty diversity training hasn’t been mandatory, but it will be in the future. The school will work on how to measure the success of those training programs, she said.

Callaghan said she has witnessed offensive language used in classrooms, but students have expected that sort of behavior from professors. A professor in the iSchool, though, said people need to go beyond identifying what they find offensive.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as saying, ‘This is offensive. This isn’t offensive,’” said Professor Barbara Kwasnik. “It’s always in a context. When people get to know each other very well, the things they say could sound horrible from the outside.”

Kwasnik gave the example of a person whose parent is an alcoholic who may be upset from movie depictions of drunkenness.

Another student, second year Ph.D student Sarah Bratt, said she felt that the iSchool created a culture of inclusion last fall, offering solidarity to international students when “political events were particularly threatening to students.”

“We want everyone, every single person here to feel accepted and appreciated,” Liddy said.