Ithaca College held a community gathering to discuss the violent tragedies that took place in the world over the summer and to foster a sense of togetherness among the college community, especially in light of the death of Anthony Nazaire.
Administrators, faculty, staff and students gathered Aug. 31 in Emerson Suites to discuss everything from police brutality to their favorite television shows. Though the event was organized primarily around somber topics, laughter could be heard from surrounding tables as people engaged in icebreaker activities written down on Popsicle sticks. There was moment of silence to acknowledge Nazaire’s death and other incidents of violence that occurred over the summer, such as the Pulse nightclub shooting, the deaths of individuals like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the attack on police officers in Baton Rouge.
Sean Eversley Bradwell, director of programs and outreach, organized the event. He said the gathering was also a way for the community to come together after protests regarding diversity and inclusion rocked the campus last year. He said now is the time to make progress with diversity and inclusion, and not stand still.
“There is a lot of negative energy in our community, and I’m trying to find a way to make that some sort of conviction,” Bradwell said. “If we know we need to make a better campus, we do it by learning each other’s names.”
Bradwell said during his address to the crowd that discussions about societal issues and acts of violence are necessary to have to heal.
“Anytime there is senseless violence, there is a loss, and we feel that collective pain,” Bradwell said. “I am very much aware that what we are experiencing over and over and over again is needless violence. We need to find ways in which to create the world in a different way.”
Terri Stewart, director of the Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management, said she enjoyed her time connecting with the people around her.
“It was a good opportunity to get to know people and, at the time, just start digging and talking about some of things that are happening globally, nationally and here on campus,” she said.
Along with Stewart, other high-profile administrators also attended the event, including Tom Rochon, president of the college; Roger Richardson, associate provost for diversity, inclusion and engagement and interim chief diversity officer; and Nancy Pringle, senior vice president and for the Division of Human and Legal Resources and general counsel.
Freshman Alexzandria Sanchez said she was appreciative that she was able to connect with administrators, staff and faculty over issues she thought they would not normally discuss.
“I’m glad I had this opportunity to meet some adults who I can have conversations with because usually we just have these conversations with our friends; but it was nice to hear the opinions of adults who actually work on Ithaca’s campus.”
Diana Dimitrova, director of International Student Services at the college, said she fully agreed with Bradwell’s message about creating an open atmosphere of dialogue.
“I believe in the power of conversation, and life doesn’t always give us the opportunity to do that face to face,” Dimitrova said.
Bradwell said this gathering is only one step forward to continue inclusion efforts at the college.
“We need to have some real conversations,” Bradwell said. “We need to be committed to making sure that this is a campus for all of our students. We have begun that process, but there is a long way to go.”