Campus Community

A Difficult Dialogue

Written by Mike Thee

September 19, 2017

SU faculty and staff discussing Charlottesville

Image credit: Chuck Kuo

Faculty and staff gather to discuss Charlottesville and race relations.

Against a backdrop of continued racial unrest in the U.S., Seattle University faculty and staff gathered for a community dialogue session on Sept. 12. 

Hosted by Natasha Martin, then associate vice president for institutional inclusion and two days later named vice president for diversity and inclusion, the event came on the heels of recent events, including the violence and tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., last month. 

“What happened in Charlottesville continues to weigh heavily on me, particularly around the need for productive engagement across differences,” Martin wrote to faculty and staff on Aug. 30 to invite them to the dialogue session. “Let’s come together to embrace our shared humanity, bear witness to recent events and contemplate their impact on our work at SU with our students and one another. Importantly, we will gather to affirm our commitment to a vibrant campus culture that values the robust intellectual exchange of ideas and prioritizes mutual respect, inclusion and dignity of all.” 

Accepting Martin’s offer was an overflow crowd of faculty and staff who came together for an honest discussion on the topic at hand: “Educating for Justice in Complex Times – Prioritizing Humanity and Inclusion on Campus.” 

What ensued was an honest and productive dialogue. “This was a tough meeting,” Tim Leary, executive vice president, shared in remarks at the President’s Welcome on Sept. 15. “Lots of difficult issues were shared and (there was) anger, fear, resentment…but I left with a sense that there is hope and that, while not easily attained, we at Seattle University can make a difference in this area.”