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social justice

Southern is committed to being a social justice university. In the spring 2021 issue, Southern Alumni Magazine looked at some of the many ways the community is taking a stand — and spotlighted some additional campus resources.

SCSU students gather at Black Live Matters, Southern Connecticut State university

When President Joe Bertolino came to New Haven in 2016, he pledged to make Southern a social justice university by ensuring that all members of its extended community were treated with dignity, respect, kindness, compassion, and civility — inspired by the tradition of Cura Personalis (care for the entire person) that he had learned during his Jesuit education at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

Four years later, this goal — and the actions and conversations it sparked — remain at the forefront, further informed by an international outcry for racial justice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May. COVID-19 has also graphically illuminated racial and economic disparities. How does a campus community committed to social justice move forward?

In July, Diane Ariza joined Southern as vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion  — a new senior-leadership position. The move echoes a national trend: the number of chief diversity officers is on the rise on college campuses and in the business community. But while many developed the position in response to a major incident, this was not the case at Southern. Instead, strategic leadership was sought to bring the university to the next level of commitment and change.

Diane Ariza
Diane Ariza

Ariza was raised in a bi-racial, bi-cultural community in Puerto Rico. She brings decades of experience to Southern, including, most recently, social justice-related leadership positions at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., and Quinnipiac University in Hamden. She began her Southern tenure by talking to hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Within months, she developed a three-year strategic plan: Advancing Southern Towards a Social Justice and Antiracist University: Priorities and Recommendations (2020-2023).

“In recent years there has been some great work done at Southern promoting antiracism and social justice that I haven’t seen in other places,” Ariza says. “But we will not solve systemic racism and inequality overnight, so we must find ways to take meaningful action by contributing however we can and moving forward as a community.”

Working with Ariza, students are continuing to drive Southern’s social justice mission throughout the 2020-21 academic year. The Student Activism Committee, often working alongside the Student Government Association and multicultural student groups, held many events — including an on-campus Black Lives Matter (BLM) March (Sept. 30), a Voter Teach-In (Oct. 26), and the State of Social Justice at SCSU Town Hall (Nov. 18).

For the BLM march, hundreds gathered at Buley Library, then traveled on to the residence life quad. The event included speakers, art, and music, and culminated with a vigil commemorating Black lives lost to police brutality and racial injustice. “The community came out and they came out in force. . . . If you wanted an example of a peaceful, intelligent, informative, teachable rally — that focused on action and the future while simultaneously acknowledging the pain of the present and the past — Southern was it. . . . I couldn’t have been prouder,” said Bertolino, commenting on the event during a Diversity in Higher Education podcast.

The State of Social Justice at SCSU Town Hall, moderated by Ariza and held online, was also a semester highlight. The event outlined ongoing goals and progress made on multiple fronts, including campus diversity. (Watch at news.SouthernCT.edu/socialjusticerecap.) In recent years, Southern’s student body has come to increasingly reflect the community at large: about 38 percent of students are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) and, last year, more than 50 percent of the incoming class were students of color, says Robert Prezant, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

The developments were too numerous to highlight exhaustively during the town hall or in this article. But they cross all areas of campus, from curriculum development to residence life. Additional training programs are preparing staff and faculty to support all students, including those who are first-generation and BIPOC. Services offered through the Multicultural Center have been expanded, and a new initiative — Athletes Fighting Injustice — was launched this summer.

In terms of academic developments, a new minor — Racial and Intersectional Justice Studies — will be launched. And Enrollment Management is working to enhance access to higher education, even for high school students not planning to attend Southern. Staff offer programs on topics like paying for college and completing the application for federal student aid. (Southern’s Financial Literacy and Advising program is listed among the top 10 in the nation.)

Jules Tetreault, associate vice president and dean of student affairs, emphasized the importance of understanding the complexity of many students’ lives — most notably, a lack of access to basic needs such as shelter and food. In October, the university opened an on-campus Food Pantry along with a related Social Services Center to help students access vital resources.

Of course, a commitment to social justice is not a new endeavor for the university. COVID-19 altered plans for Social Justice Month, which is historically held on campus in November. For the first time, the event was offered online and given an overarching theme: Changing the paradigm from ally to antiracist. Southern also annually offers social justice grants, ranging from $500 to $2,500, to members of the campus community for projects/initiatives that forward a climate of inclusion and challenge injustice. And the Top Owls Social Justice Awards honor those who have taken a stand.

Still, much remains to be done. Among the many goals cited during the State of Social Justice meeting:

  • Attracting and retaining a more diverse faculty. Approximately 23 percent of full-time faculty are BIPOC, compared to about 19 percent in 2005.
  • Determining how to best support housing-insecure college students and high schoolers who want to go to college.
  • Leveraging existing and external support to meet students’ pressing needs with limited resources.The list goes on — and the work continues. •

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
SouthernCT.edu/dei The Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion shares a wealth of information online, including social justice priorities, suggestions for getting involved, and resources, a podcast, and more.

Real Talk: A Diversity in Higher Education Podcast In Season Two, student activist Jamil Harp and Professor KC Councilor break down communication barriers and get to the heart of equity and inclusion conversations on college campuses.

History Department Teach-in Series Watch the series — which addresses topics ranging from militarization to incarceration to the psychology of racism.

Crucial Conversations: A Southern video series addressing important topics in two parts — Race in America part 1  and part 2.

Cover image, Southern Alumni Magazine, Spring '21Read more stories in the Spring ’21 issue of Southern Alumni Magazine.

 

James Barber (left) working with students in the Organization of Afro-American Students (OAAS) in 1977; and (right) Vice President for DEI Diane Ariza with student and alumni panelists in a virtual forum on anti-racism in September 2020

Southern Connecticut State University is committed to a mission of social justice, and to address that mission more directly, the university recently welcomed its first vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Dr. Diane Ariza. For the past several months, Ariza has been working to develop the new DEI division, and an important part of that work has been the creation of a website that speaks to Southern’s commitment to social justice.

Although the DEI division is new to Southern, the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion is not new to the institution, and it’s possible that no one knows better than Mr. James Barber how far the university has come and how far it still has to go.

For more than 50 years, James Barber, ‘64, M.S. ’79, has given dedicated service to Southern, its students, and the surrounding community. In 1971, Barber launched Southern’s first Summer Educational Opportunity Program (SEOP), which over time successfully opened the door to a college degree for scores of minority students. He also led the university’s affirmative action office in the 1970s, served as director of student supportive services for more than 20 years, and now helps to advance Southern’s mission as director of community engagement.

In 2020, Diane Ariza was named as Southern’s first vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), following a national search for this new senior leadership position. She brought to the position more than two decades’ experience of administrative leadership in social justice and a background of teaching and research in ethnic studies. Most recently, Ariza served as chief diversity officer at Quinnipiac University and as vice president for community and belonging at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. As an administrator and strategist at both institutions, she worked with senior leadership teams to promote greater access and inclusion through systematic and structural change, ensuring that all students, faculty, and staff reach their fullest potential.

Here, Barber and Ariza trace the past, present, and future of DEI and social justice at Southern.

James Barber
James Barber

Q) Mr. Barber, you were an undergraduate at Southern in the early 1960s. How would you describe the institution in terms of diversity and inclusion in that era?

A) There was no focus or sensitivity to the areas of diversity and inclusion as it related to attracting or retaining students of color nor addressing the exclusionary hiring practices. There was some recognition during my early days as teaching faculty, by both Dr. Buley as well as Dr. Middlebrooks, Vice President for Academic Affairs, that change needed to occur. Dr. Buley who was president during my undergraduate days and, with the encouragement of Dr. Jim Moore, was the person who brought me back to the university’s teaching faculty, was becoming somewhat sensitive to the fact that there needed to be a cultural change. In spite of his recognition, as president, for a need to begin addressing and initiate change, the rest of the university was not ready. Diversity, Inclusion and Equity was not on the university’s radar.

Q) In 1971, you launched Southern’s first Summer Educational Opportunity Program (SEOP), which over time successfully opened the door to a college degree for many minority students. How did you come to develop this program, and how have you seen it impact students?

A) The SEOP program was the outgrowth of 2 years of strategic planning, meeting weekly with the Organization of Afro-American Students (Black Student Union) and the few faculty of color employed during that period covering 1969-1971. We knew that in order for change to occur, that would benefit students of color, that we had to change the thinking of policy makers and some faculty. There were several critical issues that needed to be addressed:

First we needed to begin addressing the cultural climate on campus, both in and outside of the classroom. We especially needed to begin to expose the campus community to the contributions made by people of color to the arts, which included music, theatre, dance, etc. The university was like a castle with a moat around it located in an urban environment.

Second: We needed to ensure a stronger support system for students of color.

Third: We needed to ensure that there were more students of color around the table when decisions that were going to affect/effect their existence on campus were being made.

The SEOP program, which was designed to look beyond SAT/ACT scores and assess the whole person, has been successful. For a significant period of time the average graduation rate for students who had successfully completed the program was higher than that of students who were outright admits. We have had individuals who have gone on to careers in medicine, law, education, social work, wealth management and many other professions. The minority student enrollment at Southern prior to the beginning of the program was approximately 1/10th of 1 percent.

One of the areas that needs to be highlighted is the 25 years when I was Director of Student Supportive Services. When I assumed responsibility for the department in 1989, it had six existing but siloed programs: Veterans Advisement, SEOP, Disability Resources, International Students Advisement, Tutorial Center, and the Writing Center. We broadened the departmental outreach to do the following: educate the campus community of the significance of the mission and objectives of the existing programs; develop a program that was similar to SEOP but would provide an opportunity for students who for whatever reason could not participate in a program that had a residential mandate; create programs that had an intentional focus on early intervention; and academic enrichment and support for middle and high school students who resided in the Greater New Haven area. To address the latter I aggressively pursued grant funding to kickstart and sustain 4 new programs: ConnCAS, which provided support for a commuter students’ summer educational program; ConnCAP, which provided funding for a year around academic enhancement and support program for middle school students who would eventually transition into high school; Let’s Get Ready, a preparatory program funded by Goldman Sachs, for local high school students; and ConnCAB, which provided funds to establish the university’s book loan library. The University Student Success Center now embraces the work with students that was previously the focus of the Writing Center and Tutorial Center.

Q) You were also instrumental in the development of the first affirmative action plan for Southern. When did this work take place, and how did it come about?

A) I believe that we filed our first Affirmative Action Plan in 1976. I was a member of the group that wrote the plan. The process was initiated when I decided to take a couple of students of color and a colleague, who at the time was chairperson of the university’s Urban Studies Program, to Brown University, to the first weekend conference in New England on AA Plan Development. It was hosted by a Southern alum, who, at the time, was the assistant to the president at Brown. We wrote the plan and my colleague was appointed to the position of Director of AA. Eventually, I was asked to assume the role, a position that I held for about 8 years.

Q) Your career as a track and field coach was an important part of your journey at Southern and beyond. How has your work in athletics related to your work in the DEI arena?

A) I have had the privilege of a journey through the world of track and field, which began in 1964 with SCSC Men’s Track and Field and has provided me many opportunities to engage and coach at every level of the sport, both nationally and internationally. I initiated in 1975, with the assistance of 2 SCSU undergraduate students, a grassroots youth program that has had over 5000 children, attracting young athletes from as far south as Bridgeport, north to Waterbury and New Milford, and all along the shoreline. In spite of the fact that it was an athletic program, the intentional focus on diversity and inclusion is why this volunteer program is still attracting families in the year 2021.

Q) You are now advancing Southern’s mission as the university’s director of community engagement. How does this role enable you to impact diversity, equity, and inclusion at Southern?

A) My role as director of community engagement provides me opportunities to reach out without boundaries to every segment of the local, statewide, and sometimes national community on behalf of the university, students, faculty, staff and alumni.

 

Diane Ariza
Diane Ariza

Q) Dr. Ariza, what do diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging mean to you?

A) It is central to Southern’s mission as an educational institution to ensure that each member of our community has full opportunity to thrive in our environment.

Diversity: Commitment to increasing diversity, which is expressed in myriad forms, including race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, (dis)ability status and political perspective.

Equity: Commitment to working actively to challenge and respond to bias, harassment, and discrimination. We are committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status.

Inclusion: Commitment to pursuing deliberate efforts to ensure that our campus is a place where differences are welcomed, different perspectives are respectfully heard and where every individual feels a sense of belonging and inclusion. We know that by building a critical mass of diverse groups on campus and creating a vibrant climate of inclusiveness, we can more effectively leverage the resources of diversity to advance our collective capabilities.

However, these words sometimes can lose meaning over time. “Diversity” is a decent word. It is. Companies and politicians started weaving “diversity” into their lexicon in the 1990s, attaching it to many well-meaning, outward-facing initiatives. But their overuse of the word is part of what has hung it with a connotation that’s forced and inauthentic.

Belonging – Having a sense of belonging is a common experience. Belonging means acceptance as a member or part. Such a simple word for a huge concept. A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter.

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance, and Belonging is having my music played.”

Q) How long have you been involved in DEI work, and how did you get started in it?

A) Reflecting back, I have to say the work started when I was a child growing up in a bi-racial, bi-lingual, bi-cultural household and community in Puerto Rico. It was just more interesting and fun growing up where one could hear different languages, eat different foods, and engage in different practices and beliefs that made life vibrant and exciting!

As I got older, though, I realized that not everyone celebrated my joy in the same way, and noticed even within my family that prejudice and racism existed as well as in school, and community. I wanted to change that! Wanted to understand why this was and pursued majors in history, sociology, anthropology, and ethnic studies that provided meaning, context and critical understanding for why these social problems in our society and in the world existed. Thirty years later, I have become a stronger thinker and practitioner in my professional career including teaching, admissions, student services, enrollment management. When I make decisions, I try to think how will this impact individuals, whether they are non-traditional, commuters, food and housing insecure, with disabilities, etc.

Q) Why is DEI work particularly important in the higher education sphere?

A) In The Compelling Need/or Diversity in Higher Education (1999), documenting expert testimony in two law suits brought against the University of Michigan’s race-conscious policies in undergraduate and law school admissions, Gurin argued student experiences with racial and ethnic diversity in college have far-ranging and significant educational benefits, including preparation for democratic citizenship in the post-college world.

Other benefits beyond preparation for democratic citizenship is the value to having a diverse workforce. Evidence suggests:

Start with a variety of world views in one room, and you’ll come out of the other side with better ideas…

Increased Creativity…
Increased Productivity…
Reduced Fear, Improved Performance…
Boost Your Brand’s Reputation…
Global Impact…

I can’t think of any better industry that prepares students over time to learn, stumble, problem solve, and become better leaders and practitioners.

Morever, today colleges and universities are experiencing “perhaps the biggest upsurge in student activism since the 1960s.” Today, students are actively organizing around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. This new group of DEI champions wants something different, including more formalized recognition for their knowledge, skill and efforts; more advanced training; and professional opportunities for leadership roles.

Q) What do you think are the biggest challenges of doing DEI work? What are the biggest opportunities?

A) Some of the biggest challenges:

There still is an expectation that DEI VPs or CDOs will provide the fixes for everyone without others doing the work, and I mean really doing the “hard” work.
Dismantling systemic oppression and racism takes time. However folx mostly affected by these systems are tired, really tired, broken and harmed. We have no time to waste.
Many are doing the hard work, however, they are still doing it in silos and not collaboratively and intently.
We need to measure our success. Fifty more programs/events will not change culture or climate on campus if we don’t measure over time and hold folx accountable.

Training programs are not just checking the box and saying “I did it.” How does one take responsibility to continuously reflect on this work and do better?

Opportunities:

The nation is woke all of a sudden since the summer racial violence and murders of black individuals. There is a reality that we must do better, and quickly! As I said earlier, Gen Zs are actively organizing around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. This new group of DEI champions wants something different, including more formalized recognition for their knowledge, skill and efforts; more advanced training; and professional opportunities for leadership roles. And they are willing to take on the system!

Q) As the first vice president for DEI at Southern, how do you see your role in helping to move the institution forward? What is the DEI Division working on now, and what are your plans for the first few years on campus?

A) I remember when interviewing for the position at Southern, I was asked how would I help to move the institution forward? I responded with the following analogy: Southern has an amazing orchestra with fine musicians doing anti-racist and social justice work. My role as the conductor of the orchestra is to unify a large group of musicians into a core sound instead of a wild bunch of different sounds surging out; unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble, and to control the interpretation and pacing of the music.

Learn more about DEI at Southern

Mr Nyle Fort
Mr Nyle Fort

On January 15, 2021, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 92 years old. The university commemorates Dr. King’s birthday each year with special events highlighting issues that resonate with his mission of racial equality and justice. This year, Southern will host two virtual events to honor the legacy of the civil rights pioneer: one on January 27 (co-hosted with other local institutions) and one on February 8.

“The Work Ahead, The Work Within: Reflecting on King’s Dream”
Wednesday, January 27, 2021 
7:15-8:30 p.m.
Registration required
The university and Greater New Haven communities are invited to attend this year’s intercollegiate virtual MLK Commemoration that honors the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With generous sponsorship from our campus partners, Yale University’s 2021 MLK Commemoration Planning Committee, Gateway Community College’s Office of Student Activities, Quinnipiac University’s Department of Cultural and Global Engagement, and Southern Connecticut State University’s Multicultural Center are co-hosting this inaugural intercollegiate event that will feature Patrisse Cullors (co-Founder of Black Lives Matter and best-selling author of When They Call You a Terrorist) and Yamiche Alcindor (White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour and NBC and MSNBC political contributor).

This virtual event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please visit this site to register: https://tinyurl.com/YaleMLK21.

Visit MLK.YALE.EDU for more info.

poster for intercollegiate MLK event 

“Commemorating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Pandemic, Privilege and Protest” Virtual Event
Monday, February 8, 2021
1:00 p.m.                                  

Join us as we celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This event will feature keynote speaker minister, activist, and scholar Nyle Fort. Mr. Fort will explore not only how the pandemic reveals deeper patterns of racial inequality, but how students and staff can respond in order to save our fragile experiment in democracy by drawing reference to some of Dr. King’s work. Sponsored by the Multicultural Center. Register here to receive the meeting link.

Nyle Fort
Nyle Fort

From Mr. Fort: Pandemic, Privilege and Protest

About 2 million people worldwide have fallen victim to COVID-19. Over 380,000 have died in the United States. While the pandemic affects everyone it disproportionately harms black communities.

Racial inequality in medical care, wealth, employment, housing, and incarceration all impact death and infection rates. African Americans have more underlying conditions and less access to health care than white Americans. Black workers bore the brunt of coronavirus layoffs and those still working risk their lives to make ends meet. Even the ability to practice social distancing depends on race, class, and zip code.

Meanwhile, police violence continues to run amok as evidenced in the recent police killing of George Floyd. Amid the deadliest pandemic in over a century, protesters are taking to the streets to challenge legacies of racial injustice.

This is an unprecedented moment in American history. 

This virtual talk and Q&A with Nyle Fort will explore not only how the pandemic reveals deeper patterns of racial inequality, but how students can respond in order to save our fragile experiment in democracy by drawing upon Dr. King’s teachings

 

 

student Jierah Reid, '22, with VP for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree
Student Jierah Reid, '22, with Vice President for Student Affairs Tracy Tyree in the campus food pantry

Southern student Jierah Reid, ’22, was recently named one of 30 randomly selected winners in Sodexo’s “Spread The Joy Sweepstakes” as part of its fall resident dining promotion series. Sodexo is the university’s dining services provider. This national prize sweepstakes focused on the positive things we can spread – like joy to others – giving students across the United States the chance to win one of 30 $500 donations made in their name to their campus food pantry or a local hunger-related charity. This comes at a time when food pantries are deeply in need of donations, given the COVID-19 environment. Reid selected the SCSU Food Pantry as her charity beneficiary. In addition to the donation, Reid will receive a $100 VISA® gift card to spend any way she would like. Reid presented the food pantry with her $500 donation at a recent event held in the food pantry, which is located in the Wintergreen Building.

The SCSU Food Pantry opened October 28, 2020, and 40 dedicated volunteers ran the pantry six days a week during the fall semester. To date, over 1,400 lbs. of food have helped 50 SCSU student shoppers in 132 visits. The food pantry is open over the semester break on Mondays from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and Wednesday 9 a.m.-4 p.m. The pantry recently added a baby section of diapers, food, and wipes. There are plans to stock more refrigerated and frozen items to better support the needs of SCSU students.

Reid is a junior at Southern. She is majoring in Healthcare Studies with a concentration in Clinical Research and a minor in Public Health. Reid is an active member of the Southern community; she has been involved in the Residence Hall Association since her freshman year and is currently serving as an RA. Reid is passionate about supporting others and says the SCSU Food Pantry is something she is a huge advocate of. Of the sweepstakes win, Reid said, “I want more students to be able to benefit from the food pantry. My hope is to eliminate the stigma that may be attached to the service and instead have the food pantry embraced as an valuable campus resource. There are so many students who are in need, whether they’re residents or commuters, I want them to see this and know about it. I hope this will raise awareness and build momentum for the SCSU Food Pantry so it can continue to expand its offerings and become something more people are comfortable utilizing.”

Featured at more than 600 Sodexo-managed colleges and universities nationwide, Sodexo’s fall resident dining promotion series featured a number of safe, physically distant events for students in addition to the Spread The Joy Sweepstakes. Two core dining showcase events, #RockTheBlock and Foodie Revolution, celebrated the beautiful outdoor weather and capitalized on the historic 2020 election with themed foods, activities and more.

Sodexo, Inc. (www.sodexoUSA.com), the leading Quality of Life services company in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, delivers On-site Services in Corporate, Education, Health Care, Government and Remote Site segments, as well as Benefits and Rewards Services and Personal and Home Services. Sodexo, Inc., headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD., funds all administrative costs for the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation (HelpStopHunger.org), an independent charitable organization that, since its founding in 1999, has made more than $22 million in grants to end childhood hunger in America. Visit the corporate blog at blogs.sodexousa.com.

Santa greets a young fan at the 29th annual "Friends of Rudolph" event, held at Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven.

Every December, Southern and the New Haven Police Department co-sponsor a “Friends of Rudolph” program that collects new, unwrapped toys to give to local New Haven families in need. The event typically begins with an arts and craft session and then a gift-giving assembly in Lyman Center. The day’s events are run by volunteers, including SCSU faculty and staff members, students from various campus clubs and organizations, New Haven police officers, and New Haven area high school students.

This year, because of safety precautions around COVID-19, the 29th annual university-sponsored Friends of Rudolph program was a drive-up event held at New Haven’s Lighthouse Point Park. Santa and his elves were on hand to distribute coats, toys, books, and more to members of the community. Southern and the New Haven Police Department were joined as sponsors by 94.3 WYBC, The City of New Haven, The Youth & Recreation Department, and the university’s community partners.

View a gallery of photos from the event

Santa’s helpers sort through toys and coats inside the Lighthouse Point carousel building.

 

The SCSU food pantry

The numbers can be disheartening. More than 30 percent of students at Southern Connecticut State University are food insecure.  And nearly 80 percent of students at Southern rely on jobs to provide for their basic needs yet many are still coming up short. Nationally, 72 percent of economically disadvantaged students are more likely to drop out than any other demographic, according to a University Business study. This fall, however, the creation of Southern’s Food Pantry and Social Services Center offers hope in a new set of numbers, one that will help students — and the university – tell a different story about student success.

Numbers like 819.73: how many pounds of food have left the food pantry since it opened on Oct. 28. And 28: how many shoppers have visited the pantry in just a few weeks. And $531,720: how much Southern’s alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends raised in 2020’s Day of Giving to support students. More than 34 percent went directly to the Support Our Students Fund and, according to Kaitlin Ingerick, director of Annual Giving, is “an enormous part of the reason” Southern can provide aid.

“Everything inside the pantry has been donated by faculty, staff, and students,” Student Affairs Case Manager Sue Zarnowski said. “We are part of the Connecticut Food Bank, but it is so inundated, they can’t help as much. We also team up with M.L. Keefe Community Center for produce and dairy. The food pantry’s aisles look like a mini supermarket. We even have baby food items, a cereal section. Even snacks.”

“Since we opened,” Zarnowski said, “more than 800 pounds of food have left the pantry, and some of our shoppers have been repeat visitors. When the pantry was mobile, it was a 50/50 split between commuters and students living on campus. Now we see more commuters, more students who may be non-traditional.”

That doesn’t surprise Jules Tetreault, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of students, who acknowledged that as Southern increasingly focuses on access, the student populations that are growing are those that need the extra support; that extends beyond food.

“The idea is that the food pantry is step one in a larger project,” Tetreault said. “We know that students have insecurities about needs in general. COVID adversely affected subsets of our population, especially financially insecure students, and exacerbated their situations.”

While the pantry gives students immediate access to food, in the future Tetreault said the center also will connect students to various types of assistance through the Social Services Center.

“I work with students who are homeless,” Tetreault said. “We have students whose families have been laid off, and they are the breadwinners on minimum wage. The Social Services Center will be a hub to support these pieces, like referrals for other assistance programs as aid is shrinking. It will help us make connection points as we continue to increase access and success.”

Using the Food Pantry

The food pantry is located in the Wintergreen Building. It is open to all undergraduate and graduate student shoppers Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. The pantry will be closed Nov. 25. Students can visit the pantry directly during business hours or make an appointment, which usually lasts 15 minutes, through SSC Navigate. When they visit, students simply pick what they need.

Ways to Help

Southern’s food pantry is currently stocking its shelves with food to help students meet their basic needs. Funding is needed to help keep the shelves stocked with food and sustain the food pantry for the entire year. Donors can make a gift to the Support Our Students (SOS) Fund, which supports the food pantry initiative. To do so, visit www.southernct.edu/giving and choose the “Support Our Students Fund” in the dropdown.

Donors also can donate directly through Amazon Prime, which ships free to the pantry, or through similar platforms.

Hundreds of students, faculty, administrators, and staff marched on campus on September 30 in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to call for racial justice. The march started at 5 p.m. at Buley Library and moved over the footbridge to the Residence Life Quad, where a speak-in with art and music on racial issues took place, followed by a vigil to commemorate the Black lives lost at the hands of police brutality and racial injustice.

Student Cameryn Arpino-Brown organized the event as a way of helping students find their voices, and several campus organizations joined in, including a group called “Athletes Fighting Social Injustice,” formed through the Athletics Department.

TV stations WTNH and NBC30 covered the march:

“Hundreds gather at SCSU for march and vigil for racial equality”

“SCSU Students Hold Black Lives Matter March On Campus”

David Pettigrew with Bakira Hasečić outside of the Pionirska Street House in Višegrad, where nearly 60 civilians (women, children, and elderly) were burned alive in 1992.

In an article in the Fall 2020 issue of VQR (The Virginia Quarterly Review), journalist Jack Hitt recounts a trip to Bosnia he took in August 2019, accompanied by Philosophy Professor David Pettigrew, upon whose research Hitt’s article is generally based. As Hitt explains the purpose of his trip, “Theoretically, I traveled to the Balkans to look at statues, memorials, even plaques on buildings because I’d heard how new sculpture and construction were rewriting a violent history right on top of the land where it happened.” The violent history he refers to is the genocide that began in the Balkans in 1992 when Serb nationalists in Bosnia attacked the country’s Muslims, the Bosniaks. Pettigrew has extensively researched, written, and spoken about this period in Balkans’ history and its aftermath.

In the article, “More Lasting than Bronze: Touring the Architecture of Revisionism,” Hitt writes of Pettigrew, “For the last several years, Pettigrew has campaigned inside Bosnia and from his desk in New Haven for the implementation of a law forbidding the authorities to engage in genocide denial, which has been met with delays and postponements and promises of further study. But Pettigrew pushes on. I have a file folder of letters he’s sent, op-eds he’s written, videos of appearances on Bosnian television.”

David Pettigrew and Bakira Hasečić at the memorial to Bosnian Muslims who were victims of genocide in Višegrad. In his article, Hitt refers to this moment when Pettigrew and Hasečić hold up the word “genocide” on the memorial. A stonecutter had scratched out the word from the memorial after the Višegrad municipality deemed the use of the word to be offensive.

Donald Yacovone, '74 (Photo by Photo by Mary E. Yacovone)

Historian Donald Yacovone, an associate at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research and a 2013 winner of the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal, was recently interviewed by the Harvard Gazette about a book he is writing, ““Teaching White Supremacy: The Textbook Battle Over Race in American History.” Yacovone is a Southern alumnus, having graduated in 1974 with a B.S. in history.

Yacovone, who co-authored “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” with noted historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. in 2013, spoke at the History Department‘s honor society induction ceremony last fall about his research on textbooks and white supremacy.

From videos produced by History Department faculty, clockwise, from upper right: "Attica! Race, Incarceration, and Radicalism" by Troy Rondinone; Steve Judd; "Militarization and Its Consequences in the Time of COVID" by Jason Smith; Julian Madison

History provides the much-needed context for how we got to the present moment, says Jason Smith, an assistant professor of history at Southern. George Floyd’s death in March 2020 and the Black Lives Matter Movement only strengthened his belief that now, more than ever, “thinking historically” can help students model what it means to be historians and humanists. To make connections to the movement, racism, police brutality, the pandemic, and other related issues, Smith and fellow history faculty created a teach-in lecture series; it’s been widely received — and not just by history majors.

“The project originated from a number of questions that emerged at the beginning of the summer,” Smith said. “I wondered how I might personally respond to the death of George Floyd and all of the history that lay beneath it, especially given the health risks associated with participating in mass protests.” He noted that he wanted to respond to current events from a historian’s perspective, modeling for students how we see historical evidence bearing on the present.

“We’re in a moment when we feel so disconnected from our students, and this also was a way to address these questions coming up on social media,” Smith said. “It was a collective effort, to show how in this moment histories and humanities are so important.”

Jason Smith

The series features Smith’s “Militarization and Its Consequences in the Time of COVID”; Professor of History Troy Rondinone’s “Attica! Race, Incarceration, and Radicalism”; Associate Professor of History Julian Madison’s “The Psychology of Racism”; Professor of History Steve Amerman’s “Listening to Indigenous Peoples”; Professor of History Steve Judd’s “Are the BLM Protests America’s Arab Spring”; and Associate Professor of History Marie McDaniel’s “History and Statues in 2020.”

An historian of war and American society, Smith’s lecture addresses the ways in which militarizing the encounter with COVID-19 may have certain lessons to teach us about the expansion of executive power, new rituals surrounding death, the scape-goating and brutalizing of an enemy, and more.

“It struck me as interesting and significant that in March-April, similar tropes were being used to confront COVID-19,” Smith said. “We were fighting a ‘war’ and ‘an invisible enemy.’”

The response to the series has been enthusiastic, and the lectures have been viewed hundreds of times, particularly Madison’s “The Psychology of Racism,” which Madison attributes to curiosity about “how all of this got started.”

“There has always been prejudice, even back to the Roman Empire,” Madison said. “It used to be illegal to marry people with blond hair! [William] Shakespeare actually had a relationship with a Black woman, and he wrote about prejudice and racism, but there hadn’t been laws mandating discrimation. Racism isn’t that old. It’s been prevalent since the 1600s, but it wasn’t always so.”

As for whether the series may continue through the fall, Smith is uncertain. What he does know is that the opportunity for everyone — student and non-student alike — to learn about history and how it intersects with the present is too important to pass by.

“The History Department took up the project enthusiastically, and I want to thank our faculty and staff for participating and really spearheading this project,” Smith said. “I think we view it as part of our department’s larger effort to reach students where they are, to make strides to build a sense of social and intellectual community among our students and alumni, in particular, as they must remain off campus and out of the classroom, as they confront very difficult and sometimes hopeful events often in isolation. We don’t stop being teachers when we’re kept out of the classroom. These times present new, challenging, problematic, but also exciting opportunities to teach.”

You can view the entire teach-in video archive on the Department of History YouTube channel. The faculty also compiled a list of recommended readings, which is posted on the department’s website.