Commission on Diversity strives to bring permanent, meaningful change to campus culture

Geneseo tries to uphold many values throughout the campus community, with a particular focus being placed on diversity. Over the past year, the university has gone through many trials dealing with problems concerning race, gender, sexuality and religion. Many students have actively spoken out regarding these problems through marches, die-ins, walkouts and meetings.

To help address these growing concerns, Geneseo created the President’s Commission on Diversity back in 1998. Their mission statement includes the goals to “create a richly diverse community… where we all have the opportunity to learn from people of diverse racial, ethnic and social backgrounds. We seek to build an educational community where differences are respected.” In order to uphold these aims, personnel changes have taken place to ensure that the Commission is working as effectively as possible in 2016. Professor of history Tze-ki Hon and senior assistant director of admissions and Multicultural Coordinator Georgenson Anselme took office as Commission co-chairs in April 2015 and have worked extensively to honor Geneseo’s commitment to diversity.   

Hon emphasized the collaborative and supportive nature of their positions. “We are like brothers,” he said. One of Hon and Anselme’s first major accomplishments in their new roles was the expansion of Geneseo’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Leadership & Service into a weeklong commemoration featuring events focused on diversity and civic engagement.

“MLK Jr.’s legacy should not be limited to one day, one time,” Hon said. “We want to focus on the meaning commemorating him; what it means for this campus.”

Anselme expressed similar sentiments. “We want to have an actual impact,” he said.

Hon and Anselme both noted that they have been paying close attention to student activism on campus. They mentioned that the Geneseo Walks Out event in November helped to bring attention to racial issues and problematic aspects of the campus climate—the students have spoken and now, their voices are being heard. Like many other campuses, Geneseo has had problems in the past with the treatment of students by their peers due to race, sexual orientation and other issues of diversity.

Hon and Anselme agree that while Geneseo strives to be a college that prides itself in respecting diversity and working to actively solve issues, the campus has a long way to go before these problems are truly solved. “We are making progress, but we aren’t where we want to be,” Anselme said.

Hon and Anselme explained that by holding events like MLK Jr. week and giving the students an opportunity to have discussions about racial, gender, sexual orientation and religious inequalities, they hope to make students feel comfortable to talk about these issues and to gain a deeper understanding of how to remedy problems they encounter.

Anselme encouraged students to have these conversations with their friends to create a foundation to learn and grow upon. “We can’t change the campus,” Anselme said. “The campus has to change with us.”

“To make changes happen, it’s not just on us, but the whole campus,” Hon added.