As 2018 and the new semester get into full swing, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the effort we began this past fall, in the wake of the troubling events that affected our campus — including the death of Scout Schultz and the violence at the vigil in Scout’s honor.
As the College community struggled to understand what happened and the roles we could play in making things better, we held three student-led sessions to listen to concerns and draw forth ideas from across the College.
First, student leaders gathered to plan how they wanted to engage the issues. Next, we held an open discussion for all students in October. Finally, in November, student leaders Lexie Scott and Chris Zakroff presented a summary of views and suggestions to students, faculty, and staff and led a discussion about how we could act on them. I have included their Powerpoint presentation in this post so you can view their recommendations directly.
Before I address next steps, I want to offer my sincere gratitude to the dedicated student leaders of the Undergraduate and Graduate Student Advisory Boards who organized and led the sessions. I also want to thank all students who took the time to attend the discussions and speak openly about crucial issues facing our community.
The issues ranged from transparency in campus policing to addressing more fully mental health needs to fostering greater inclusion for LGBTQIA+ members of the Ivan Allen College community, all of which mirror the larger campus conversation.
What we heard most clearly is that action is necessary, and that there are things we can do as a college to improve. Some actions are more appropriate as campus-wide initiatives while others are intricately linked with broader societal issues, but the overall message was clear: the College and the Institute need to begin working now to make a difference.
To that end, the intention of the College is to honor the call for a comprehensive, strategic approach to improvement based on the advice so thoughtfully prepared by our student leaders in consultation with many others. As assumed throughout the sessions, we will also link actively with campus-wide initiatives as appropriate.
We are not waiting, however, on the full completion of a comprehensive action plan to begin work at the college-level. With the encouragement of students, faculty, staff, and administrators, we are moving forward on important actions that can be quickly realized. As Dean, I will start with my commitment to hold listening sessions on a more regular basis to enhance communication across the College, perhaps one session per term just for us to touch bases with each other. Additional actions include:
· Planning an event with the Georgia Tech Police Department, particularly for Ivan Allen College graduate teaching assistants (but open to other students as well), with special emphasis on Campus Carry. We are also advocating in-campus level planning for a campus-wide student board that works with police on campus safety issues from a student perspective.
· Encouraging student leaders, faculty, and staff to take QPR suicide-prevention training and Safe Space training, and encouraging faculty to include LGBTQIA+ anti-discrimination policies and Safe Space training in syllabi.
· Under the auspices of the Co-Lab, launching an inspirational poster project to highlight well-known figures that are public about their struggles with mental health challenges.
· Hosting a community-building event for international students, promoting College courses focused on gender and/or race studies, and organizing an IAC-specific Pride event for LGBTQIA+ students, among other initiatives to improve campus culture.
As we continue to work on the active participation of the College in forwarding Georgia Tech’s plans for improvement, we will provide periodic updates. My expectations are two-fold: ongoing dialogues about topics that matter will be important to our collective success and being more intentional about responding to these concerns and ideas will increase our capacity to create an Ivan Allen College experience that is inclusive, welcoming, and productive for all.