Penn State Fayette holds 'All Are Welcome Here' event

LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — Last semester, Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus introduced a Diversity Forum as an integrated component of its first-year student curriculum. Survey responses indicated that an overwhelming majority of students recognized the importance of discussions on the subjects of sexuality, race and ethnicity, and bias, and wished to continue the conversation beyond the forum.

In October, the campus offered “All Are Welcome Here,” an interactive event intended to build on the language and concepts introduced in the Diversity Forum.

Eighty students in attendance were divided into large groups. Facilitators opened with a short story, “The Witches of Glum,” to reveal implicit biases.

“One part of the story referred to a king being wheeled onto the balcony. Interestingly, all of our participants assumed the character was old due to his wheelchair,” said Carol Evans, biology lecturer and member of the Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Alliance on campus, which sponsored the event. “Students came to recognize that these assumptions are the same implicit biases each of us make daily.”

Next, groups engaged in a diversity card game. Each student was assigned a card with a number value made known to the group but not to the cardholder. The objective was for each student to determine the value of his or her card based on non-verbal cues from the group — bows of adoration or pointing and laughing, for example.

Following the exercises, students were prompted with the following questions:

  • What do you think is going on out in the world today?
  • What have you seen with respect to implicit bias in your community, workplace, high school, or campus?
  • What biases have you experienced?
  • What can you do in your individual lives to make sure others are treated fairly with respect and not based on assumptions, stereotypes, and prejudices?

Participants received “All Are Welcome Here” t-shirts designed with a word-cloud of student responses to the question: “What does diversity mean to you?”

“During our initial Diversity Forum, we discussed explicit acts of discrimination based on sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. This follow-up event further examined implicit biases that also result in discrimination,” said Evans. “Part of the role of an ally is to recognize your own biases, learn how to address them, and be willing to start the conversation to educate others about their own discriminating biases. With these FYS (first-year student) workshops, we work toward making our campus welcoming for all people from all different backgrounds.”