OUR PLEDGE AND PROMISE: Diversity and Inclusion, Equity and Social Justice
Residence Education and Housing Services’ (REHS) Associate Director for Diversity and Inclusion Sharon Chia Claros discusses the many diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice trainings offered by her department.
Diversity and Inclusion Tailored Trainings
These personalized diversity and inclusion trainings specifically tailored to meet the needs of a requesting RHS team are facilitated by Chia Claros herself. The trainings are in place to give team members the tools, resources and strategies to make their workplace environment more inclusive in hopes these strategies will translate to how student team members are interacted with.
“I’m a very big believer that our supervisors have more knowledge and context into what their student teams need,” Chia Claros stated. “Initially, the goal [of the tailored trainings] is to be more intentional in terms of meeting the needs of our different student team employees and building off of the bias training as it relates to bias in the workplace, which all full-time employees are required to take.”
Chia Claros asks for a two-week notification when signing up for the trainings to give herself enough time to shape her conversation beforehand.
“I take what their needs are and create a tailored presentation that would keep the people attending the training and the people they want to educate engaged in the process,” she said.
By partnering with the intercultural work team at REHS, Chia Claros has affirmed their end goal is to be more proactive when it relates to having conversations around inclusion. Anyone can sign up for the trainings. They’ve even been used outside the division for associations such as the Associated Students of MSU regarding free speech.
“We want to make sure each community leader, on a one-on-one level and a collective level, treats each other with compassion, understanding and empathy,” Chia Claros said. “We need to provide more opportunities for folks to connect with each other.”
Similar to the Diversity and Inclusion tailored trainings, Chia Claros, along with the Office of Regulatory Affairs and the LBGT Resource Center have initiated Queer Inclusive Learning and Leadership (QuILL) trainings.
“It’s a professional development opportunity, and it’s supplementary: If you really value diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice as a supervisor, then you may want to attend this because you will most likely benefit and also interact with folks who identify as queer and gender non-binary,” Chia Claros said.
The QuILL Web Course: Foundations of Queer Inclusive Learning and Leadership, part one of the QuILL trainings, is conducted through an online module comprised of definitions, acronyms and brief introductions to the difference between gender, sex and gender identity. Part two of the training, which is an in-person training, includes a group of 30-40 people who delve deep into what it means to create queer inclusive learning and leadership environments. They touch on what it means to be a supervisor who is queer-friendly and queer-inclusive and give examples on how to create a queer-inclusive environment in the workplace.
In addition, the second part of the training – QuILL Workshop: Creating Queer Inclusive Learning and Leadership Environments – looks at different case studies within the context of MSU and the resources given to LBGT students, guests and team members on campus.
“It’s important we have these trainings here to learn more about our queer communities, what their needs are and what they struggle with,” Chia Claros said.
Hate Has No Home Here and Spartan Spotlight Campaigns
Hate Has No Home Here is a campaign that rolled out following multiple bias incidents in the residence halls in hopes of creating something that would hit social media and highlight the intolerance MSU has on incidents of hate. Posters and stickers have been executed by RHS Information Services Creative Services and displayed throughout the residence halls by resident assistants.
“Especially with the polarization of our country, we wanted to get that message out there that Hate Has No Home Here, and we wanted to enhance that with the Spartan Spotlight,” Chia Claros stated.
Spartan Spotlight is a similar campaign run by REHS that captures the narratives of students living on campus who are trying to affect change. The first feature talks about experiences of people of color in a predominantly white campus. Another highlights the experience of a student who is a first-child immigrant.
“We wanted to really highlight the experiences and narratives of folks who don’t necessarily get a chance or opportunity to do that otherwise,” Chia Claros said.
Our Pledge and Promise
Chia Claros said she and her team have developed a “pledge as a department to continue our work toward diversity and inclusion, equity and social justice,” which was sent out to Michigan State students, team members and peers by REHS Executive Director Dr. Ray Gasser Feb. 26, 2018. The document reads:
“We, as Department of Residence Education and Housing Services, have reflected upon our fundamental mission to foster a diverse, inclusive and safe environment for all Spartans living in our on-campus communities.”
The document goes on to state an REHS pledge to further support students and improve campus climate as it pertains to sexual violence, racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, religious oppression and other forms of marginalization.
Chia Claros explains, “We hold ourselves accountable for these following actions: offering resources, training, conversation tools for supervisors, resources for survivors, racial justice, and initiatives that support and empower women, people of color, the LGBTQ community and more.”
In the future, REHS is planning to form a Sexual Assault Task force specific to the Live On committee to increase sexual assault awareness, prevention and response. The task force will also focus on bystander-intervention skills, creating forums for team members to talk about their experiences and give feedback on how to make the environment more inclusive.
“We want to learn how we can partner with SARV [Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence], MSU SAP [Sexual Assault Program], etc. and how to start building relationships with fraternities and sororities,” Chia Claros said. “How do we make our headways into these spaces? Because we know our students are a part of these clubs and organizations, as well.”
One idea revolves around making use of certain months of the year recognized nationally such as Black History Month (February) or Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April) to push out content and create awareness. While the Diversity and Inclusion team recognize it won’t be relative to just that month, it is important to capitalize and put out programming that connects with student groups, campus partners, faculty and other units within student affairs to further a campus-wide collaborative effort.