September 2, 2020

It’s Time for a Real Talk: Courageous Conversations About Race

An Open Discussion with the Public About Where We Go From Here…

West Chester University (WCU) has raised its hand high to act as a catalyst for U.S. social change at a time when a plethora of racial injustices fester on humankind amid another fatal pandemic.West Chester University (WCU) has raised its hand high to act as a catalyst for U.S. social change at a time when a plethora of racial injustices fester on humankind amid another fatal pandemic. Courageous Conversations About Race will take place September 26, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., and will convene the WCU community with neighbors from all corners of the Commonwealth of PA during a powerful Zoom discussion about topics that have fractured society --- bystander intervention, healing and restoration, implicit bias, race relations in the workforce, and white fragility. Registration is open to the public. The live, open discussion is sponsored by West Chester University, the WCU Alumni Association, the WCU Frederick Douglass Institute, and St. Paul’s Baptist Church in West Chester.

During the discussion, participants will be divided into one of five groups led by a moderator who is prepared to guide a conversation that will explore uncomfortable issues. As each group reflects on material assigned at the time of registration, participants will be asked to engage openly and honestly with each another. Upon the conclusion of the group discussions, participants will rejoin the larger group, share what they have learned, and develop action steps that each will “own” to activate social change. A second conversation is expected to be coordinated following the 2020 presidential election.

“Our nation has reached its tipping point and an exhausted generation has evoked a call to action,” said WCU President Chris Fiorentino, Ph.D. “For civil rights, this is not a moment. It is a movement that requires engagement in critical thinking and problem solving to address systemic racism and inequities. The time is more than right for us to foster meaningful conversations about guaranteeing, protecting, and practicing civil rights. It is the right thing to do.”

Courageous Conversations was a public discussion originally coordinated in Chester County in 2015 by Lisa Croft, M.D., family physician and wife of St. Paul’s Senior Pastor Wayne E. Croft, Sr., and WCU Professor of Communication Studies Anita Foeman, Ph.D., the lead researcher of the DNA Discussion Project, a nationally renowned campus-wide project that continues to prompt very honest discussions about race following the unveiling of individual DNA results.

Five years later, Foeman and Croft have found an immediate need to link arms once again and launch Courageous Conversations, part two. Also joining in the coordinating and moderating of the September 26 event are WCU’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Tracey Ray Robinson, Ph.D.; WCU Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Lisa C. Huebner, Ph.D., feminist sociologist of gender; and Resident Director of Allegheny Hall, Justin Brown, M.A.

West Chester University stands aligned in its fight for equality for all and has been nationally recognized for its continuing efforts. On September 1, the University received the 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. The HEED Award is a prestigious honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and that weave the essential principals into the everyday work being done on some campuses.

Among WCU’s many innovative projects that celebrate diversity and inclusion through intentional actions are the following: the launch of the Golden Rams Initiative, through the Global Engagement Office, which serves underrepresented minority, low-income, and Pell-Grant eligible students in study abroad; the engagement of undergraduate students in a 2019 national racial climate survey (National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates Survey); the placement of Student Success Coordinators in each of the University’s six colleges and two schools; the founding of the Ram Shop, the only on-campus convenience store of its kind in the nation to provide workplace training for students on the autism spectrum to practice and master social and professional skills; and the establishment of a Resource Pantry that provides food, personal items, school supplies, and career clothing throughout the school year, summer, and winter break for students who have critical needs.

In keeping with its mission and strategic plan, the University is committed to creating an educational environment where students engage in a variety of program offerings designed to increase cultural competence. This year, WCU will place much emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving to address systemic racism and inequities. Among the many events highlighting the fall semester will be the 2nd Annual Ruby Jones Conference on Race, Social Justice, and Civic Leadership, which will take place virtually September 30 through October 2; Angela Davis, as an activist, author, and professor, will be the keynote speaker. In addition, the Office for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI) will launch WCU’s Institute for Cultural Competence & Inclusive Excellence, a non-credit bearing, certificate program consisting of a combination of diversity and inclusion training and education workshops (virtual), self-study readings, books, on-demand video presentations, and a capstone project. Participating WCU students, faculty, and staff will have up to 18 months to complete the Institute’s requirements.




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