by Sarah Haman
In response to the increasing demand for more comprehensive cultural education at Whitworth, President Beck Taylor has created a Diversity Cabinet to promote diversity on campus.
The Diversity Cabinet will equip Whitworth students to understand why people historically have built up walls against other human beings.
The new Diversity Cabinet is composed of representatives from major organizational units across the university and will be chaired by the chief diversity officer Dr. Lawrence Burnley.
“The Diversity Cabinet will prepare students to develop the intercultural capacities and the skills of awareness that will allow students to really engage humanity effectively across multiple dimensions of human difference,” Burnley said.
The Diversity Cabinet will meet monthly for two hours, on campus, in conjunction with the International Diversity Committee (IDC).
The IDC is a representative body of faculty, staff and students that supports strategic diversity-related initiatives throughout the campus community. Within the Diversity Cabinet will be subcommittees trying to fulfill the cabinet’s purpose.
“The fruit of our efforts will be providing you with an educational experience that will better prepare you to follow Christ and serve humanity,” Burnley said.
The idea that everyone matters inspired the creation of the Diversity Cabinet, Burnley said.
“We believe that these processes, if successful, will help further cultivate a more inclusive curriculum that will have students engage scholars that have been marginalized, that are almost invisible to the curriculum,” Burnley said.
The blackface incident that occurred at the beginning of September demonstrates a lack of intercultural awareness
that the Diversity Cabinet plans on rectifying by expanding Whitworth’s core educational system.
“The incident that happened earlier this month we can see as a failure on our society’s educational system, part by not having it in our core curriculum especially in history courses,” senior Tyler Aguilar said.
“History has taken shape by a lot of the events that we do not see in school curriculum, like the culture of blackface isn’t a part of that and that is why we have innocent behavior that can be very offensive,” Aguilar said.
“There are faculty and staff from the campus that are doing incredible work in this area,” Burnley said.
Faculty and staff are creating the spaces in their reading requirements and in their core curriculum programs where offensive behavior is occurring. The Diversity Cabinet hopes to make this the norm in ways that permeate the campus, Burnley said.
“The new Diversity Cabinet is a result of a really complex process that finds its origin in the 2021 strategic plan,” Burnley said.
“The purpose of the Diversity Cabinet is to provide an organizational infrastructure that allows for sustainable achievement of diversity-related goals and objectives.” Burnley said.
Goal 4 of the 2021 strategic plan called for an office of diversity, but President Beck Taylor decided to create a cabinet rather than an office.
“President Taylor was concerned that creating office could silo the work of diversity; he advocated for a distributive leadership model that distributes responsibility rather than isolate it,” Burnley said.
Students are also responding well to the Cabinet.
“This cabinet is really important to me because, hopefully people will come to be aware that diversity doesn’t just include race.,” junior Camina Hirota said. “Diversity means abilities, sexual orientation, religion. It’s not limited to race, which I feel like a lot of people assume and that’s why they are afraid to talk about it.”