On November 21 a campus wide e-mail was sent out from President Urgo discussing an incident that occurred in the beginning of the semester. The incident involved the false accusation of an African-American student on campus by a Caucasian student and has lead to a discussion on race relations around campus. In response to this incident President Urgo stated in his e-mail that “Plans are underway for a president’s forum next semester, to discuss the state of racial and ethnic exchange on campus—as well as differences rooted in sexuality and disability.”
The forum will take place next semester and is currently being headed by Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Laura Bayless, and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Beth Rushing. According to President Urgo, Bayless and Rushing are currently, “putting together a planning committee of students, faculty, and staff [to head the forum].” While the forum will not be taking place this semester , it appears as though the forum will take place in either January or February of 2012 to coincide with the start of the Spring semester.
Though it may seem that the incident that occurred at the beginning of the semester prompted the forum, in reality it is a conversation that President Urgo believes the campus should have had some time ago. “It’s [a talk about diversity] has been thought about before. The legislation that started the school charges us with providing academic excellence for all and promoting cultural diversity. We are overdue [in] having talks about culture, race, and ethnicity on campus,” said Urgo. Not only is it his belief that these discussions have been overdue but also the belief of members of the campus community. “Students, staff members, and faculty are calling for it. I know it’s been talked about by BSU, Lenny Howard, and faculty with interest in this area,” said Urgo.
President Urgo believes that by having a more open form of discussion about cultural diversity and race on campus, all students will once again begin to feel part of the St. Mary’s community. “Some students report not feeling as at home on campus and some don’t see the big deal. Some students have never had to deal with that [feelings of discomfort], and others think about it all the time. Those are the two groups that need to talk to one another,” said Urgo.