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Students, administrators discuss diversity at first-ever Inclusion Forum

Two words, diversity and inclusion, guided discussion at the first-ever Inclusion Forum on Monday, September 17 in Armstrong's Wilks Theatre.

The forum was presented by 18 student organizations, including Associated Student Government (ASG), the Diversity Affairs Council (DAC), Feminists Working on Revolutionary Democracy (FWORD), the Residence Hall Association, the Panhellenic Association and the Interfraternity and National Pan-Hellenic Councils.

"Miami today continues to struggle with diversity and inclusion, although improvements are being made and should be acknowledged," said Courtney Rose, ASG secretary for diversity and inclusion, in their opening remarks. "This forum is our effort, the effort of diverse and motivated and strong student leaders, to push Miami a bit closer to justice and equity."

Rose's remarks were followed by an update from Black Action Movement 2.0 (BAM 2.0). Senior Miranda Woods' presentation centered around the demands issued by BAM 2.0 in April and the progress made toward those ends.

Examples of demands met include the creation of a button on MyMiami for reporting bias incidents and finding a larger space for the Office of Diversity Affairs. The university is still working on demands including mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all students and monthly updates on ongoing diversity initiatives.

The demands not met by the administration yet, Woods said, include providing a full job description for Ron Scott, the vice president for institutional diversity, changes to the student code of conduct and the adjudication process regarding discrimination and harassment.

Scott said he was present for "the first half of the first hour" of the event before leaving to attend another event.

After the BAM 2.0 update, the forum opened up to presentations from other diverse student organizations.

These organizations included the Students with Disabilities Advisory Council (SDAC), the Interfaith Council, FWORD, Spectrum, the Chinese American Business Organization and the Native American Student Association.

Additionally, Akosua Boadi-Agyemang, a senior accounting major, shared her experience as a black international student.

"I want people to understand that you hear a single story of Africa," said Boadi-Agyemang, who was raised by Ghanaian parents in Botswana. "You hear the poverty, you hear the war, you hear the disease. I want to tell people that there is education, there is beauty."

"The event was really helpful for me to begin to understand the variety of experiences we have here," Kimberly Moore, Miami's new dean of students, said in an interview following the event. "The most important thing is to understand where we are now so we can know where we need to go next."

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Following the student organization presentations was a panel of administrators and student leaders including Moore, vice president of student affairs Jayne Brownell, director of the Office of Diversity Affairs Kelly Kimple and Rodney Coates, the head of the presidential working group on diversity and inclusion.

Each panelist was asked one or two questions concerning diversity and inclusion initiatives related to their position.

Coates used his time to discuss the progress made by the Presidential Working Group. The group's research produced a 140-page document with more than 100 recommendations for the university, among them requiring first-year students to complete a "module in diversity and inclusion" similar to the already-required AlcoholEdu.

The group also recommended setting clear protocol for reporting bias incidents and creating a "Presidential Student Advisory Council" consisting of diverse student leaders that meets monthly to discuss diversity initiatives and concerns.

"How do we own diversity?" Coates said. "How do we make diversity something that we all share and not something that 'they' do over there? The biggest thing we all can do is point the finger at ourselves and ask, 'What am I doing for this thing called diversity?'"

Brownell devoted her time to the new diversity and inclusion module recommended by the presidential working group.

"We've been looking for a product like this for several years now," Brownell said. "We're one of the first schools in the country to sign on to this. What we're doing is more than what's recommended. Rather than only have a student sit down and do the module and that be the end of it, we feel it's important to have facilitated conversation afterward."

In the closing remarks, Rose thanked participants and attendees.

"The important thing now is to turn what we talked about into tangible action," Rose said. "I hope this event will set a precedent for these conversations going forward."