An ad hoc task force appointed by Brother William came together on Tuesday, Dec. 8 to listen and take note of university members’ concerns, experiences, and insights having to do with current national and international happenings.
Task force team members included Ann Merchlewitz, executive vice president (chair); Alisa Macksey, executive director, First Generation Initiative (College); Dr. Esther Peralez, dean, Student Success Center (College); Dr. Joseph Tadie, associate professor, Philosophy (College); Teresa Taylor, program director, Culturally Responsive Teaching (SGPP); and Dr. Mary Louise Wise, professor, Counseling and Psychological Services (SGPP).
Faculty and staff had sessions with this team earlier in the day and later sessions were held for students. Listening sessions were also held at the Twin Cities Campus for graduate program faculty, staff and students.
The listening sessions were prompted by national and international events, including the Paris attacks, mass shootings in the United States, refugee crises, and heightened tensions between religious, ethnic, and other groups. Brother William convened this task force team, “calling each of us with concerns that he might not know how current events are affecting our students, faculty, and staff,” said Dr. Mary Louise Wise.
According to Merchlewitz, attendance was high for the faculty session with up to 35 attendees and many contributing to the conversation. Student attendance was lower with 15 at the 4:30 p.m. session and just three students at the 8 p.m. slot. In the later session the low attendance was discussed, including questions of whether finals week had much to do with the small turnout or if it stemmed from the Saint Mary’s student population’s unwillingness to talk about or engage in tough issues.
Themes that were brought to light in the sessions included inclusion on campus and around the globe, solidarity, and cultural awareness. In fact, the cultural awareness Service Learning Project created by students, which displayed anonymous undergraduate student stories of struggle with inclusivity and discrimination on campus and elsewhere on a large bulletin board in Toner Student Center, was a topic brought up in almost all of the sessions.
Merchlewitz said that these common themes and trends found in discussion, along with suggested action pieces, will be reported to Brother William.