By: Wynn McDonald and Katelyn Norris
The Bellarmine community has come together to respond to several tragic events that occurred in the last month and to ensure that the campus continues to thrive in its diversity.
The recent shootings that occurred at the Jeffersontown Kroger and the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh left many shocked and alarmed around the country, but an even more terrifying common thread connects them: both were hate crimes motivated out of intolerance for certain types of people.
For those who have worked hard to make Bellarmine a safe place for all who pass through, this could not be ignored.
President Susan M. Donovan announced via a campus-wide email the creation of a new President’s Advisory Board on Equity and Inclusion. Its purpose is to decide on a process of training for students, faculty and staff alike in the values of equity and inclusion, as well as monitor all hiring and orientation processes and report on any bias incidents on campus.
“This professional development will ensure that our Bellarmine core values are lived out in our daily lives as we work, live and learn together in a community,” Donovan said in the announcement.
The advisory board will be a mixture of students, faculty and staff. The members of the board will gain knowledge to better implement these values on campus, as well as monitor the progress Bellarmine makes. The goal of the board is to begin a conversation, taking the necessary steps to prevent such tragedies from occurring on campus.
“This is all about alliances, and how we work together,” Donovan said. “There’s a lot of work to be done so I think if we know people that are very interested in that, they’ll help us and ignite a passion around this.”
In the same spirit, BU Campus Ministry and the Office of Identity and Inclusion (OII) collaborated to raise awareness in response to the recent tragedies.
During the week following the two shootings, the two offices put together several events to show the campus’ support for the victims and others affected by gun violence: a community conversation allowing students to express their feelings and opinions on the situation, a prayer tree in which people could write messages of love and support for those affected by the shootings, and an outdoor vigil to send prayers for all the victims, sponsored by the Jewish student organization Hillel. Students were also able to send letters of condolence to the families of the victims through the Student Activities Center.
It was a week of compassion and healing for all involved.
“We’ve got to start with having these hard conversations and educating people about what is going on, how we can make change,” Campus Ministry Director Laura Kline said. “How we can be a more inclusive, welcoming campus that says that that’s not acceptable here.”
One of the primary organizers of these events was sophomore Cari Campbell, the president of Hillel and an active member of Campus Ministry. A former Pittsburgh resident, Campbell was particularly affected by the synagogue shooting on Oct. 27 and was encouraged by the turnout at the events.
“I was in absolute awe at how many people gathered as we prayed in solidarity for the tragedies,” Campbell said. “The power in this was more than incredible. I was shocked how our community came together so seamlessly to support those affected.”
This diverse compassion is precisely what Donovan said she hopes to build on and spread with the creation of the advisory board. The President’s Office has received 58 staff and student nominations, and they encourage anyone else who is interested to apply, although the initial body will be limited to about a dozen members.
“I think the more discussion you have the better,” Donovan said. “That’s really important in college: that we’re not in a bubble, and we stay alert to what’s going on around us.”
OII Director Joseph Frazier, whose office has long worked hard to support students of different racial and ethnic minorities and report on bias incidents on campus, expressed his support as well.
“I think the advisory board is a great opportunity to really look at these issues more critically, and then once we identify where we need to do better, the committee can see how we implement that,” Frazier said. “I’m fully confident and really excited to see what comes with it.”
All three offices expressed their belief in the importance of coming together as a community during times of crisis, especially considering the growing desensitization toward violent hate crimes nationwide.
Their message was clear: at Bellarmine, all are welcome.