Last week, the Case Western Reserve Sustained Dialogue Program created an opportunity for members of the campus and neighboring communities to continue the conversations that began earlier this year surrounding equity, inclusion and racism through a Day of Dialogue.

In the opening session, university leaders shared updates about how Case Western Reserve is responding to the issues raised over the summer. Office of Multicultural Affairs Director Naomi Sigg emphasized the commitment to creating systemic change across campus and beyond. The university will increase support for the Black community through improvements to the campus climate, expanding recruitment efforts for students and faculty, and a renewed focus on retention. To build stronger relationships with neighboring communities, efforts will be made to promote and patronize local businesses, and create pathways for access to education and jobs, she said.

Screenshot of a Zoom session with Janetta Hammock, Edwin Mayes and John Killings
Clockwise from left: Sustained Dialogue Co-Chairs Janetta Hammock, Edwin Mayes and John Killings

Another concern voiced by several students in the June conversations was reports of tense interactions with campus police. Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity Robert Solomon discussed the work he is doing with the police department through implicit bias awareness training and a focus on the importance of positive interactions with the campus community.

Vice President for Student Affairs Lou Stark thanked the 192 students who responded to the university’s invitation to work with faculty and staff members to develop a task force committed to addressing the concerns expressed recently by students. The For a Better CWRU: A Student-Led Task Force will address issues surrounding race, gender, mental health, individuals with disabilities, LGBTQ+ topics, sexual misconduct and Greek life.

The Day of Dialogue also provided an opportunity for participants to discuss their reactions to the updates and suggestions to ensure movement from dialogue to action in facilitated breakout rooms. The community agreed with the importance of including students (particularly international students), staff and alumni in the process and reinforced the need to shift the campus culture.

In a closed session hosted by Know Your Neighbors at CWRU, students and residents of the neighborhoods that surround campus discussed how to foster authentic relationships between those groups. Outcomes included an effort to educate students on the many assets of the surrounding communities, inviting residents to attend campus events such as the Power of Diversity Lecture Series, and something as simple as students and residents acknowledging each other when they pass on the street.

Sustained Dialogue Co-Chair Edwin Mayes concluded the day by emphasizing the university’s dedication to creating a culture where “all of our students, faculty, staff and alumni feel a sense of belonging on our campus” and encouraged everyone in the community to contribute to that goal.

“We understand that many of our issues are systemic and will not provide a quick fix,” he said. “But with commitment, urgency and action we can begin to make a difference—especially if we learn to listen deeply and focus on making the changes in ourselves so we can make changes to the system.”

Mayes ended by sharing a quote from late Congressman John Lewis: “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”