Diversity workshop to discuss safe spaces

Brooke Schwartz, Administration Reporter

Two graduate students in history, Monica Burney and Myrtle Castro, will be hosting a workshop during Friday’s EIUnity Diversity Conference called “What I Wish My Professor Knew.”

This workshop is structured to be a safe space for students to discuss incidents they may have faced throughout their academic careers involving professors and teachers, such as teachers saying something insensitive, Castro said.

English professor Jeannie Ludlow, the coordinator of the women’s, gender and sexuality studies program, said this workshop is important because it will allow students to find others who have had similar experiences to their own.

“I think a lot of times we sit in a class and something happens and we think ‘huh,’ and then we think we’re the only person who thinks that,” Ludlow said. “But if you get in a room and everybody starts talking and everybody had the same ‘huh’ moment, then it becomes a thing and you can talk about it.”

Castro said in her undergraduate studies at Elmhurst College, she experienced the ‘huh’ moments that Ludlow mentioned.

“It’s important to give students a safe space to talk about these issues, because I feel like, not that I’ve really experienced this at Eastern, but definitely in undergrad there were moments where something a professor said, either they consciously did it or unconsciously did it, would throw me off-guard,” Castro said. “(And) as an undergrad, you are hesitant to tell somebody.”

Burney and Castro decided to set up the workshop as an open discussion, with students sitting around in a circle and sharing their experiences.

Castro double-majored in history and intercultural studies while at Elmhurst College. She said this interest in diversity grew out of her own experiences.

“What drew me to my first … major in (intercultural studies) was (that) I’m Asian-American, both my parents were born and raised in the Philippines, and growing up I always faced issues (with) being the model minority, so people … assumed just because I’m Asian … that oh, I’m good at math or oh, I’m going to be in the medical field, which is not what I am,” Castro said.

Students will be asked not to mention names of any specific professors.

Burney and Castro will hand out notecards for students to write their experiences if they do not want to share them out loud.

Castro said the ideas discussed by students at the workshop will be documented and shared with Eastern faculty in hopes of further benefiting Eastern’s campus and the learning experience for everyone.

“I feel like having students have this safe space to have this discussion, and then have the capability to present this to faculty members will just further enrich (students’) college experiences,” Castro said.

The workshop will take place during the EIUnity Diversity Conference in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union at 11 a.m. on Friday, with registration for the conference having ended on Jan. 29.

“Let’s just break this ignorance and educate for future enrichment,” Castro said.


Brooke Schwartz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].