Cultural Competency Seminar – Fireside Chat

Cultural Competency Seminar – Fireside Chat


>>The Culture Competency Seminar featured
a Fireside Chat on Creating Inclusive Environments on Campus. Dr. Marisa Bisiani, Assistant Vice President
for Student Health, Wellness, and Prevention, and Professor Lisa Deitrich join Moderator,
Verna Wall and share insights on their personal experiences with microaggressions and discrimination. They also share solutions on how to address
these issues in a positive and effective manner. They discuss being attentive to the effects
of receiving microaggressions and how to recognize how to relinquish power associated with privilege. As members of the Stony Brook Community we
should create opportunities to help our peers understand their worth to the institution
and create multiple learning spaces on campus for dialog and understanding. Most importantly, we have to invest time,
energy, and resources into the things that we value. Diversity, inclusion, and equity are three
of these things, and continue to increase in value each day.>>My name’s Marisa Bisiani. I am the Assistant Vice President for Student
Health, Wellness, and Prevention Services. The Departments Center that under my purview
are Student Health Services, Center for Prevention and Outreach, Counseling and Psychological
Services, Student Accessibility Support Center, and Recreation and Wellness.>>Hi, everyone. I’m Lisa Deitrich. I’m a Professor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality
Studies. And I do — well, I think the reason that
I’m here is that I’ve been involved with a group of concerned women faculty who have
brought — have been meeting and talking about issues around sexual harassment, hostile environment,
and we’ve spoken with the President and Judy Greiman [assumed spelling] and so I’ve been
actively doing that for about the past year. And also I do a lot of — my work, my area
of research, and one of the things that I focus on and teach about is Disability Studies. So I’m interested in how we create access
and inclusion maybe even more so than accommodate. But, yeah, we’ll talk about that.>>So let’s start off with — so if we’re
— this morning is really about cultivating an inclusive environment at Stony Brook. So just want to get your thoughts initially
on — so what does that mean to you. If we’re talking about cultivating an inclusive
environment at Stony Brook, what does that look like?>>So I guess I’ll start. From my perspective, it’s identifying and
eliminating health disparities. We have the west, we have the east side of
campus. We’re all one. And I think that when we look at disparities
they exist across campus. And it’s different for everyone. Since I joined Stony Brook, I am an alumni,
but since I joined professionally myself and my team were consistently looking at ways
to break down the barriers for students accessing our services, looking at how we could be more
innovative. Rather than waiting for students to come to
us, how do we reach out to them? And truly that’s really been the ground and
the basis from where I go from here.>>Good.>>I would just say that it takes work. I think this is — what we saw in the preceding
sessions kind of indicated a need for awareness and actual work on — and this work is cultural. This is a seminar on cultural competency,
but it’s also kind of structural work. In other words, how do we create structures
that bring people in, are inclusive, and value people? So thinking about what we value and how we
value people I think is really important.>>Okay. Are there some tangible things that you would
want to share with folks that they could leave with, that they said this is something I could
personally do in order to be about this inclusive environment?>>When I see the words microinsult, microaggressions,
I see some common theme. And for me it’s assumptions. And everything that I’m looking at outside
of those words is about assumptions. So my takeaway and what I share with my staff
and what I share with everyone in the room, for me is be aware of what your assumptions
are. If you have the opportunity to even know that
you insulted someone or hurt them, it’s okay to apologize. I make mistakes frequently. None of us are perfect. And I think that if we’re given the opportunity
to recognize it, to just pause and say you’re sorry and apologize for how you made them
feel can go a very long way.>>Yeah. And I think the idea of assumptions is really
— we have to kind of think about what our assumptions are in just looking at a person
or just coming into a particular environment. We also — there’s also a way that — and
I think this conversation’s about microaggression. Sometimes, at least among faculty, maybe less
among staff. Faculty are maybe a little more cynical than
staff, I think. I don’t know. But is this idea that people are being overly
sensitive, right? That even this word microaggression sounds
like, well, this mini-thing that — what’s the big deal, right? But I the thing for me that I always try to
remember is — and I try not to make assumptions about people in the sense that I don’t know
them, really, and I have to open myself up and create an environment in which they can
tell me a little bit about themselves. So I don’t presume something going into an
environment. And I don’t know about them. I know there’s — sometimes there’s a sense
that students today are being coddled maybe. I’ve heard this from faculty. I think that’s ridiculous. Our students here are not coddled. They’ve come from very difficult backgrounds,
many of them. I can’t even imagine what they’re lives — some
of the things that students have endured. Certainly not all of them, but — and so to
presume that I can imagine and suggest that they’re being coddled because they’re sensitive
to a microaggression, say, I think is really sort of ignorant — would be ignorant on my
part. And I really need to work harder to not make
those sort of presumptions.>>I just wanted to share with you. I shared this with Lee. I think it was last week. I, maybe about two months ago, I was talking
to a peer about comments that were shared that were — could be perceived that the student
had heard it would be hurtful, or if anyone had heard it for that fact. And the employee said to me, I just feel like
I can’t event joke anymore.>>Mm.>>I don’t even want to speak. And it was so eye opening for me because I
understand for that moment. I could see that the person did not mean to
hurt anyone, and truly felt this way. And for a moment I was speechless. And I had to stop, reflect for myself, and
then speak about, you know, what we certainly don’t want is to get to a point where we’re
not communicating.>>Mm-hmm.>>Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.>>Well, and I think, too, that the — you
know, it — what I love about a college campus is it really is about sort of the marketplace
of ideas. I mean, college campuses have always been
a place of exploration and discovery. And I don’t know if we realize sometimes the
impact that we have just on a day-to-day basis with students. I know that I always tell this story about
how I had a housekeeper come up to me at a session that I did once. She was housekeeper in one of the residence
halls. And she said, I just want to thank you for
coming to campus. And I said, well, I’m just excited to be here. And she said, well, I just want to let you
know that I didn’t really know my worth until I had a Hall Director to come up to me and
say, we want to thank you because as a result there was a student who was — had not left
her room in three days. And the housekeeper just went to the Hall
Director and said, just want to let you know this woman who lives in this room hasn’t left
her room in three days, so we just want to kind of let you know that. And the Hall Director said, well, thank you
so much. And she then — later on someone went up to
the — the Hall Director went up to the housekeeper and said, I just want to thank you because
as a result of you telling me this, we went and found out that this woman was really having
a struggle around depression, and really trying to navigate the campus community because of
her identities of who she was. And if you hadn’t have come to talk to me,
if you had not have said something to me, we would not have known. And so I just want to make sure that we realize
that we have power in the things that we do, in the relationships that we have, not only
with our communities and our colleagues, but also to our — the students that we work with. But I did want to make sure I asked the question
around. So are there things that you’ve seen happen
at Stony Brook that you say, this makes me proud around inclusion, around just equity,
something?>>Well, I think this is one of them.>>Yeah.>>Right here?>>Wow.>>Wow.>>This is one of them. I think that every day there’s always a balance
of the positive and some of the negative, and we — what keeps us going and motivated
is the positive. I’ve seen staff help each other. I’ve seen staff care for patients over at
the hospital, that went above and beyond to improve health outcomes. I’ve seen staff that work in the areas that
I oversee really have empathy and put themselves in that position and move mountains to make
things happen. I’ve seen great partnerships. I’ve seen partnerships with faculty and staff,
especially with Student Accessibility Support Center. I’ve seen students achieve things that they
never thought they could achieve. And every day’s more and more remarkable.>>Yeah. I would just add that I think one issue is
— and I agree. This is amazing and this is the — this is
important as the beginning of something. I think we have to kind of carry this through
and people have to go back to their departments, to their clinics and other places, other units
on campus, and kind of think about how to bring some of this information to those spaces
and how we can kind of make this an ongoing project. But, yeah. I think with somewhat limited resources, I
think the staff and faculty on this campus work incredibly hard and actually just generally
I wouldn’t be here for as long as I’ve been here without a feeling that, yes, the staff
and faculty have the interest of the students at heart. And, yes, we get things wrong, but for the
most part people are trying to do their best, sometimes with limited resources. And that does become a kind of problem in
terms of how we value what people are doing every day, acknowledging what they’re doing
by actually valuing their work. So I think that’s a complication that we have
to really think about. What are the resources that we put into this
sort of work of inclusion?>>Good. I want to take a moment to use the term learning,
learning spaces rather than classroom spaces, because I believe there’s learning that happens
everywhere –>>Mm-hmm.>>– in the campus community. And we’re all involved in it. And I just want you to talk a little bit about
learning spaces. What does it mean to be an inclusive learning
space? What have you got?>>Again, it’s eliminating the barriers. I think Rick mentioned earlier that students
shouldn’t have to fight for the accommodations. Everyone deserves the same opportunities regardless. And that is an inclusive classroom. We talked a little bit about power dynamics
and power should be shared. And it is challenging to give up power. But you’re not completely giving it up, as
I was telling Lisa earlier. But being cognizant of it, that there needs
to give some give and take.>>Okay.>>And I’ll add some about power because that’s
one of the things I study. In Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies we
sort of — one of the things we want to analyze is power and how power works. And I would say one of the important things
to remember about a university space is there are multiple spaces within the university. So there’s the university as an institution
and how it’s representing itself. And that’s kind of happening today. There’s also departments and there’s other
sort of more casual spaces and interactions where learning is happening or where interactions
are happening. So I think we have to think about the spaces
that we move through and whether or not they’re inclusive, but also how power is operating
in those spaces. And think about the university and I think
staff will understand this. But it’s actually a very hierarchical space. It’s a hierarchical institution. And, actually, recently the National Academies
of Science, Medicine, and Engineering — Science, Engineering, and Medicine, NASEM, has released
a report about sexual harassment, and made many kind of interesting recommendations. And I think really important recommendations. But one of the things that this report first
sort of stated and really emphasized is the kind of problem of hierarchy. So, actually, harassment is prevalent in universities,
second only to the military and according to studies, and that’s partly — and by harassment,
I’m talking about sort of — NASEM is talking about sexual harassment, but also kind of
gendered harassment. And sort of bullying, kind of the microaggression
stuff that we saw a presentation about. So the problem is, how do we sort of challenge
those hierarchies. And Marisa said, sharing power. It becomes important that we share power. But we also become reflective about people
being dependent on the person above them, which might create a kind of structure in
which it’s difficult to complain or bring an issue that one might be having to — and
sort of — how does one do that, because you might actually be complaining about the person
who holds power over you. So this is difficult, and we have to kind
of be aware of how that dynamic is operating. And one of the main things the NASEM Report
suggests is we need to actually diversify our environment so that power isn’t sort of
— kind of there isn’t one type of power, and our sort of image of who’s powerful isn’t
one type of person. So that becomes very important in managing
harassment and other kind of climate issues I think.>>Okay.>>Good.>>I always love to hear from folks is what’s
a learning that you’ve had personally in this journey of your own around inclusion, something
that comes to mind that you say, this is something that I take with me that really — that has
made me better, has made me have better conversations, have made better community-building, something
that you feel is a part of you that allows you to be who you are in the word?>>That’s deep [laughter].>>That’s an Oprah question, what?>>That is to say.>>Did I get — is that Oprah question?>>That’s an Oprah question.>>Oh, I think about what brought me here. I think about who I am as a person and what
drives me.>>Mm-hmm.>>Why I chose — I started my career, no
in Administration but in Healthcare. And I worked many years as a Healthcare Provider,
so, again, from my perspective, it’s thinking back to why I chose that path. With moving towards Administration, it’s influencing
and building a strong foundation for the Healthcare Providers that report to me. And now I’ve expanded outside of Healthcare,
and I have Student Accessibility, Support Center, and Recreation and Wellness, which
has been different for me. And it’s been such an amazing experience because
what I take away is that this is just a big circle and everything that we do just keeps
building on top of each other. So it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you’re
at the bedside taking care of a patient or in the Student Health Center taking care of
a student, or you’re in Recreation and Wellness. What matters is all these interactions we
have with each other. I said earlier, [inaudible] I felt very vulnerable
being here on stage without having my PowerPoint nor my notes that I usually have. And I think that that vulnerability is something
we experience with each other every day. And we don’t even know it.>>Mm-hmm.>>We’re talking to each other at the most
vulnerable times of our lives, and what’s happening outside of Stony Brook comes into
Stony Brook. It’s all one. And, again, it’s about being cognizant of
it and recognizing that just because you don’t know what’s happening in someone’s life doesn’t
mean that you’re not impacting them in some way.>>Yeah. I’ll just — yeah, that was a tough question,
Vernon, I know.>>Ain’t that good of an answer then [laughter].>>Wouldn’t tell me I was going to be on Oprah
[laughter]. I’ll just talk about mentoring and just maybe
give some helpful hints that I think that I give to –>>Good.>>– people that I mentor, that I — and
also the ways that I’ve been mentored well. And I have been luckily mentored well. But not everyone is. So, first of all, that’s the first thing is
that students need mentoring, faculty need mentoring, staff need mentoring. We all need mentors. We all need people who support us, people
who we can come and talk to, get advice from, who kind of have our backs. That’s really important. And one of the things that — so it’s how
we kind of create a support network for people. But one of the things I always say to people
who I mentor is that they should never only seek assistance from one person. And if somebody’s telling you that you should
just come to me, that’s a really red flag of someone who’s sort of controlling or trying
to isolate you. So I always — I say to my graduate students
and my junior colleagues who I mentor, talk to other people. Talk to people at other institutions. Get advice from lots of people. And when someone just wants you to speak to
them, they’re really worrying more about their relationship with them than with your well-being. So that’s — these are the kinds of things
that I think — tools to take away. Are you being isolated? Are you being — or are you – is somebody
you work — thinking about the staff, but is somebody you work for telling you that
you only work for them? Then that’s kind of a problem because you
work for a sort of larger community and that — we need to sort of try to value that more
diverse structure.>>Thank you. And the reason I ask that question is because
I really believe in all these conversations that we’re having this morning. It’s really important for us to move from
the third person to the first person because it’s so easy to see these topics in this conversation
as being outwardly focused when the reality is it comes from who we are, first, and outward. And so I really believe — and I hope that
you all are thinking as folks have shared with you this morning thus far, you know,
how does this impact me, how am I involved in this conversation, what’s important for
me in my role on campus, how do I engage this, what’s next for us? So we need to wrap up. So I want to get some closing thoughts from
you in terms of outwardly thinking, what haven’t you said that you want to say, that you want
to make sure that the folks hear in terms of this whole piece around an inclusive environment?>>Own it. Responsibility and accountability.>>Good.>>Own your actions, your words. Take ownership.>>I’m just going to remind people about this
term that I get from [inaudible] scholar about diversity. She talks about diversity work, and she says
diversity work is what we do to transform the institution. That’s what we’re doing right here and now. Actually, the three of us are doing diversity
work. You guys are doing it as well. But it’s also the work that certain people
have to do if they’re not — thought to belong already to the institution, if they have to
work to sort of inhabit the institution. So you want to think about that as well. And we want to value that work. Value is really important. And by value I mean resources, but also how
do we show people what they’re doing is good work?>>Good. So we want to make sure that you think about
this whole term, inclusive environment, you roles, what it looks like, how you impact
others, and know that it’s because of you that this campus community continues to be
amazing. So, show some love for Marisa and Lisa [applause].>>Thank you, Vernon.>>Please take a moment to watch the various
videos on the Chief Diversity Officer website at stonybrook.edu/diversity. And feel free to share your feedback about
what you learn on this site. Thank you.

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