With the atmosphere a bit uneasy post-election, more-so than after most elections we’ve had in the past, International Ambassadors at Georgia Tech (GTIA) hosted the 2016 Election and Diversity Discussion Forum on Thursday, November 17. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Tia Jackson-Truitt, the Assistant Director of the Center of Engineering Education and Diversity (CEED), and called together various departments on campus to participate in a discussion where students and administrative representatives could express their concerns, discuss how Tech should move forward, and remind the community of Tech’s core values.
Perhaps the most important message to cross the forum was the obvious yet necessary reminder that Tech’s campus values have not changed. The racist, homophobic, sexist and xenophobic comments that have been thrown across the political spectrum, prompting people to feel empowered to act on their hatred, do not give anyone in the Tech community the permission to act the same way and compromise Tech’s core values. Bigotry, discrimination, and hateful rhetoric have and never will be tolerated on Tech’s campus, and doing so will result in disciplinary action or criminal charges.
The Technique spoke with Maithili Appalwar, third-year IE and Vice President of Outreach of GTIA for more insight into the purpose of the 2016 Election and Diversity Discussion Forum. “Post-elections, international students were feeling a lot of uncertainty on campus about their rights as minorities, visa and sponsorship statuses and their place on campus given the current rhetoric. We just wanted to create a place where they could vent,” said Appalwar. “Our events tried to target international and minority students but were open to anyone because we wanted to encourage healthy dialogue between diverse people on campus. I don’t think we anticipated [holding this event]. I’ve always wanted to hold some kind of event to promote diversity on campus, but I never imagined that the rhetoric around the country would be so bad after the election that we’d have to do it on a emergency level. I’m thankful for the support that we received from different administration departments, especially OIE and CEED.”
With regards to how Tech intends to tackle the issue of mollifying students’ worries concerning their rights, a variety of resources are available to allow students to voice their concerns. “The presence of administrative representatives from various departments at our events is a pretty good start and shows their willingness to understand our concerns and guide us to the right resources if they exist or help us create new ones if they don’t,” said Appalwar. “ We had people from the Office of International Education (OIE), CEED, Dean of Students, Office of Minority Educational Development, Office of Hispanic Initiatives (OHI), and Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion (CSDI), Undergraduate Admissions and New Students and Sophomore Programs, which was an amazing turnout given their busy schedules. President Peterson’s heartfelt message during International Education Week is also immensely supportive. That being said, I would have liked if there was an institute wide email that just reminded students of our values and ideals as a Yellow Jacket Family.”
In addition, educating the student body on the consequences of potential new policies relieve some uncertainty. “It would be nice if OIE could explain to international students what the power of the government really is with regard to previously issued visa statuses – none of us can predict the President-Elect’s policies, but it would be great if we understood what effect potential policies could have on us. It would just help in reducing the uncertainty for international and minority students. Since uncertainty often breeds fear, I think this would have been a great step.”
The discussion affirmed Tech’s shared core values and reminded the community that regardless of our political views, hateful action and rhetoric will never be tolerated.