As students return to the Hilltop from their winter break, the Intercultural Center is hard at work in preparation for its Black History Month celebrations. The College is celebrating the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other champions of progressivism from a variety of ethnicities.
These celebrations, coordinated by the Intercultural Center, are focused on the mentality and theme of “Just Take the First Steps.” The theme is meant to facilitate dialogue and inspire action in students to work towards equality for all people. Wayne Currie, Director of the Intercultural Center, hopes students and attendees will take advantage of the opportunities and events being offered by the College. He continued that he hopes “attendees will feel empowered to embark on a journey toward progress and change by taking the first step.”
Some of the events being offered include the Martin Luther King Jr Dinner on Tuesday, January 22nd, featuring keynote speaker Melanie Levesque, New Hampshire’s first African American senator. The Intercultural Center will also be teaming up with the Gender Studies Department to commemorate the works of poet and activist Audre Lorde on Wednesday, January 23rd with a showing of the film The Edge of Each Other’s Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde. The documentary will be followed with informal dinner and discussion of Lorde’s book Sister Outsider. The College hopes for these events to spark meaningful and productive dialogue.
A full list of the month’s events are below.
01/22: MLK Dinner with State Sen. Melanie Levesque (NHIOP Auditorium @ 4:30pm)
01/23: A Celebration of Audre Lord (Jean Auditorium @ 5pm, followed by a discussion in the LLC @ 7:30pm)
01/24: Lucubrations Open Mic (LLC Classroom @ 7:30pm)
01/25: Will the Poor Really Always Be With Us? (Joseph 005 @ 12:30pm)
01/25: Philosophy Club discussion on race (Bradley Lounge @ 3pm)
01/28: Latinxs, the Bible, and Migration (Perini Lecture Hall @ 7:30pm)
01/30: A Talk by Dr. Jennifer Thorn: “Blackness and Boyhood in New England” (NHIOP West Wing @ 1:30pm)
01/31: Mary Church Terrell, African American Women, and Suffrage (Dana 1D @ 4pm)
01/31: Debate Team public debate on whether or not undocumented immigrants should be granted amnesty (Perini Lecture Hall @ 7pm)
02/04: Showing of The Great Debaters (Koonz Theater @ 7:30pm)
02/06: Showing of The Climb/L’Ascension (Perini Lecture Hall @ 6pm)
02/07: Race and Baseball in the U.S. with a showing of 42 (Dana 1D @ 5pm)
02/13: March and Vigil (Abbey Church @ 8:30pm)
02/13: Campus Mass (Abbey Church @ 9pm)
02/16: CAB Trivia on MLK and Black History (C-Shop @ 8pm)
02/21: A Lecture by Debby Irving: “I’m A Good Person, Isn’t that Enough?” (Dana Center @ 7pm)
02/22-23: Unity Retreat sponsored by the Intercultural Center
02/27: Community Conversation on Race (President’s Dining Room @ 12:30pm)
03/20: Conversation on Equity with community partners (NHIOP West Wing @ 6pm)
With syllabus week nearing its end, students are relieved to be met once again with multiple homogeneous syllabi. “I got concerned that I might have to listen to someone that doesn’t look like me,” a white male sophomore told The Hilltopper. “It puts me at ease to know that every class is filled with a slew of dead white men,” said another. Students in philosophy, theology, and English courses alike were comforted to know that their syllabi would remain representative of a single elite portion of the population.
A diverse syllabus can be harmful to systems of oppression that ensure the continuation of a white heteronormative patriarchal society, explained a white male professor from an undisclosed department. Male and female professors seem to agree with the assessment across disciplines – there simply isn’t room for anyone else.
The homogeneous syllabi are effective in reinforcing the systems of oppression with which many professors are comfortable. Said one student, “I thought that maybe there was even just one black or gay or Asian or Native American or Hispanic or female or transgender author in the past few centuries that had written something worth studying, but if my professor couldn’t find one, then I guess there isn’t! It’s honestly a relief to be reassured of my superiority.”
Other students seemed to agree, saying they didn’t sign up to read such trivial authors as Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Maya Angelou, Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison, or Pulitzer prize winner Alice Walker.
Select professors reported feeling pressure to update their syllabi due to the “changing times” and an increasingly liberal atmosphere in academia. Initially worried, professors have found innovative ways to satisfy these expectations without threatening the status of white men. “You simply put diverse scholars at the very end of the syllabus,” reported multiple professors. This way, they explained, you can still spend the majority of the class preserving the voices of dead white men. Backloading the syllabus allows professors to blame the exclusion of diverse voices on time. For example, one class simply “ran out of time for Dorothy Day.”
Among the other suggestions for skirting the demands for diversity? Some recommended using snow days as an excuse to skip classes that feature non-white authors, bemoaning ‘political correctness’ for the full 50-minute class time, and taking advantage of their tenured status to simply ignore any demands for inclusion.
Some professors blame the lack of inclusion on the demands of the core curriculum, which mandates they cover certain topics depending on the core learning outcome. With such rigorous expectations, it is nearly impossible to include voices beyond Aquinas and Bentham, explained theology and philosophy professors, respectively.
Other professors were simply confused by the request for more diverse perspectives. Said one, “I’m teaching a core course, not an elective. Why would I need to include someone who isn’t a straight white male? It’s literature, not African-American literature. I’m all for them being in a syllabus, but why can’t we just keep them separate but equal?”
The inauguration of the Roger and Francine Jean Student Center Complex has come with a slew of renamings of campus offices to reflect the valued contributions of the many benefactors who made the new Complex possible. The most substantial renaming is that of the office previously known as the Multicultural Center.
As students began flocking to the building, some noticed that the office they affectionately knew as “Multi” was branded with a new name: the “Fr. Jonathan Center.” The full name of the center is the The Father Jonathan, O.S.B., Center for Intercultural Learning and Inclusion.
In an email to the school community, Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Ande Diaz explained the name change, “In 2013, donors honored Father Jonathan DeFelice O.S.B., ’69, whose groundbreaking work for diversity and inclusion as president of the college laid the foundation for the continued work of the center.” She continued, “We are blessed to have Father Jonathan’s continued support for our commitment to serving diverse students; and while the Center’s mission remains unchanged, the new name reflects a 21st century approach.” Her email also explained that the name of the new Intercultural Center was being shortened on some signage to the “Fr. Jonathan Center.”
As Dr. Diaz mentioned in her email, the full name of the former Multicultural Center has included Fr. Jonathan’s name since 2013. Previous signage and on-campus references to the Center did not refer to it as the “Fr. Jonathan Center,” however.
The new abbreviated name reflects the work of the former president of the college, Jonathan DeFelice O.S.B. ‘69. When he served as president, Fr. Jonathan helped to spearhead efforts for diversity and inclusion on campus.
In a written statement to The Hilltopper, Fr. Jonathan explained the importance of the Intercultural Center, saying, “The Center for Intercultural Learning and Inclusion is the result of a great deal of thinking and planning on how to best implement the call of Catholic Social teaching concerning reaching out to all.” He called the center a “tangible way of exercising Benedictine hospitality.”
Sheila Ramirez ‘18, who frequents the Fr. Jonathan Center, explained that Director of the Fr. Jonathan Center Wayne Currie and Dr. Diaz informed her of the name change, citing recent donations made to the center. “The donors chose to give towards the multicultural center to honor the legacy of Father Jonathan who was a beloved president of the college and the founder of the multicultural center,” Ramirez explained. She went on, “At the end of the day, Saint Anselm College is a business and the renaming of the center is up to those who have the most money.”
Ramirez’s experience, however, was atypical. Gabriel Lopez ‘20 said, “Initially, we weren’t told anything about the name change until we saw the plaques on the walls and questioned it ourselves.” According to Lopez, Director Currie explained the name change to the students who are involved in the Fr. Jonathan Center after they discovered the change.
While understanding the realities of the renaming process, Ramirez voiced concerns about the new name, specifically the decision to abbreviate the name to the Fr. Jonathan Center as opposed to the Intercultural Center. “I believe advertising the multicultural center as the Father Jonathan center does not correlate with the mission of the multicultural center.” Citing the center’s emphasis on inclusivity, Ramirez does not believe that the abbreviated name should reflect one individual.
She was quick to point out that Fr. Jonathan’s legacy should be honored by the center, however, and she seemed appreciative of Fr. Jonathan’s work on behalf of inclusivity and diversity. “Should we honor the legacy of Father Jonathan? Of course. A sign that speaks in depth to the legacy of Father Jonathan should be displayed in the center, but the first part of the name of the center should not be a person’s name,” she said. “The mission of the center is inclusivity and welcoming while having the name of the center be after a person who is an ally takes away from our mission and is separatist.”
Lopez said he, too, understands the contributions Fr. Jonathan made to the center, but he is not enthusiastic about the decision to abbreviate the center’s name to the “Fr. Jonathan Center.”
He explained, “I didn’t agree with the change to ‘Fr. Jonathan Center,’ though I know of his importance, involvement, and how he is the reason we exist and have the opportunity to promote diversity, his name on the forefront takes away from who we are and only added confusion to people [who are] part of the center or not.”
Lopez said he is, however, supportive of the decision to refer to the center as the “intercultural” center instead of the “multicultural” center. Dr. Diaz explained the change in her email, saying, “The term ‘multicultural’ means ‘many cultures’ and was popularized in the 1990s; ‘intercultural’ symbolizes that today, these many cultures are now interacting and engaging across cultural differences.”
Ramirez and Lopez did not believe that students were consulted at any point in the renaming process. The decision seems to have been made for them. However, their voices have been heard. On Thursday, May 3, when additional signage was installed in the Jean Complex, the abbreviated sign for the Intercultural Center was changed from the “Fr. Jonathan Center” to the “Intercultural Center.”
When asked to comment on the process, Director Currie declined to speak with The Hilltopper about the issue. So, too, did Dr. Diaz. In her declination to comment, Dr. Diaz cited the fact The Hilltopper is an independent newspaper not recognized by the College. She made clear, however, she was happy to have a conversation about the process with interested students.
Other students declined to comment on the issue, and Fr. Jonathan, while happy to share insight into his work at the college, respectfully declined to comment on the renaming process, citing the fact he was not intimately involved.