The President’s Commission on Diversity and Community rewrote Geneseo’s official Statement on Diversity and Community. The original statement was written in 2003, and following criticism from some student activists, the administration decided to fully redraft it.
The statement includes completely new sections, according to Interim Chief Diversity Officer robbie routenberg and Assistant Director for Access Opportunities Programs Gabriel Iturbides, who both co-chair the committee tasked with the revisions. One of these changes acknowledges that the land the university is built on was originally of Native American ownership, routenberg and Iturbides said.
Through redrafting the statement, the committee also decided to remove a list of the specific groups that Geneseo defines as part of diversity, including race, sexual orientation and religion, according to routenberg. The commission believed that a list would be inherently exclusive, no matter how comprehensive, so they completely removed it, routenberg said.
“[The statement] looks completely different,” Iturbides said. “It’s just a few words on a piece of paper, but there was so much detail that was being covered.”
In the future, the Commission on Diversity and Community also plans to hold a summit to give students, faculty and staff a place to discuss different ideas related to diversity. The commission is also holding a meeting Friday March 30 to discuss how the school defines diversity.
“Minority representation is the state of embodying difference,” routenberg said. “You can have a diverse community and it might not feel welcoming. It might not feel inclusive. When you bring it up a notch, it’s about how we engage diversity and ensure that everybody feels welcomed and supported here.”
Some students have responded positively to the college’s first step toward improving inclusivity. The issue is especially prevalent on-campus after former adjunct professor of sociology David Sorbello gave a presentation in October 2017 that many viewed as transphobic.
Accounting major freshman Marc Gull said that the previous diversity statement was outdated, and is pleased the commission is making it more inclusive.
“I think everything is relative, so for a lot of kids that maybe come from [more racially diverse areas], it’s not as diverse as what they are used to, but for someone like me who came from a really predominantly white neighborhood, Geneseo is super diverse,” Gull said. “It’s really interesting to see a lot of people from different backgrounds, different points of view and even different languages just communicating.”
While Geneseo lacks diversity in multiple ways, attempting to improve is still meaningful, undeclared freshman Hannah Ueshiro said. The college should prioritize paying attention to to all individuals to ensure an inclusive environment, Ueshiro said.
“Diversity is continuously changing and evolving in terms of definitions and inclusivity,” Ueshiro said. “As different groups are getting new platforms I think its important to stay involved and listen to the changing voices of the time. It’s always good to stay updated and understand the needs of the generation currently going to Geneseo.”