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  • Category: Diversity

    Diversity Council Reorganization Will Enhance DEIS Communication

    To strengthen Michigan Technological University’s communication on issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging (DEIS), the University’s Diversity Council has been given a new charge. Effective fall 2021, the Diversity Council will serve as a communication hub between the leaders of colleges/major administrative units and the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI). This charge was developed with the purpose of coordinating policies and issues that impact goals related to DEIS at Michigan Tech.

    In its revised role as an information exchange among colleges, major administrative units, and the VPDI, the Diversity Council will coordinate policies and address issues that impact DEIS-related goals. Along with the VPDI, the council will comprise one or two MTU faculty, staff, or administrators from each unit, who will be appointed by their dean/unit leader in consultation with the VPDI. The VPDI will convene the Diversity Council and lead its meetings. Diversity Council members will also have a formal communication line to their respective dean/unit head. Meetings will be held monthly throughout the academic year and once in the summer.

    In conjunction with this new focus for the Diversity Council, the President’s Council Task Force for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has also established two new bodies on campus: the Student DEIS Commission and DEIS Alumni Advisory Board. These groups will give students and alumni a forum to express their ideas and concerns to the VPDI in partnership with both the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students and the Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Engagement. Working together toward a shared goal, the groups will establish lines of communication dedicated to DEIS issues and ensure there is opportunity to consistently bring their unique perspectives forward to administration for leverage across the University.

    With these three groups, we look forward to building a communication network that not only heightens DEIS awareness, but fosters collaboration to help make Michigan Tech a more welcoming university for all.

    Why do we Celebrate Pride Month?

    Guest Blog by Erin Matas

    June is recognized as Pride Month—and with the increased visibility of the rainbow flag as a sign of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) pride, it’s hard to miss. But why do we celebrate Pride in June and what’s it all about? What is Stonewall?

    In 1969, The Stonewall Inn was a popular New York City gay bar. Regulars included trans women of color, gay men, queer homeless youth, lesbians, professionals, students, and folks in drag. It was an eclectic and exciting environment for drinking, dancing, and socializing. 

    Historically, gay bars and clubs have been treasured as safe spaces where folks feel acceptance and belonging, where being your true self is applauded and empowering. This nightlife culture was particularly important because, come daylight, many in the LGBTQ+ community lived in the closet. They couldn’t tell anyone about their true sexual orientation or gender identity. For many, then and now, coming out could mean losing employment, being rejected or disowned by family, losing custody of children, losing friends, and other innumerable varieties of loss.

    The Scene

    It’s 1969. Serving alcohol is illegal in disorderly businesses—and the presence of gay folks automatically categorizes your bar or club as disorderly. Although The Stonewall Inn is a private, mafia-owned club, which does offer a little bit of protection from police, raids of gay bars and clubs are common. A raid usually involves harassing, degrading, and arresting staff and patrons, removing cash and alcohol, and shutting the place down. Many arrested are those violating gender norms, including women who aren’t wearing at least three articles of “feminine” clothing and those dressed in drag. Female police officers take those dressed as women into the bathroom to verify their sex and arrest anyone whose clothing don’t match the sex listed on their ID.

    However, the police raid on The Stonewall Inn the night of June 28 is different. 

    Instead of cooperating with police as they raid the club, patrons refuse to show their IDs, refuse to be frisked, and fight back against police officers. The uprising spills into the streets and the public joins the clash. The Stonewall Rebellion lasts for five nights, growing in numbers and strength each night. Marches and demonstrations fill the streets of the Greenwich Village neighborhood.

    About the Author

    Erin Matas

    Interest Areas

    • Academic libraries as integral partners in university initiatives
    • Accessibility of library spaces, services, and resources
    • Student Success
    • Information Seeking Behavior
    • Study of Expertise

    50 Years Later

    While the movement for LGBTQ+ civil rights didn’t begin with Stonewall, the uprising energized the movement both in the United States and internationally. As more LGBTQ+ folks and their allies came out of the closet and into the streets, pride took on a meaning of its own. LGBTQ+ Pride has become something to celebrate—something visible and tangible. Pride Month is celebrated with parades, events, and flags, and honors the courage of those at The Stonewall Inn who asserted their humanity and fought for respect.

    Although gay marriage is now legal in the US and other supportive legislation is in place, many in our community still suffer from discrimination, exclusion, and violence because of who they are and who they love. New legislation attempting to bar transgender youth from playing sports and laws denying hormone support for trans youth are just a couple of examples of current challenges. Right here in Michigan, it remains legal for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals, and many schools and colleges lack LGBTQ+ anti-bullying policies.

    This is my 27th Pride. I know we’re not there yet, but I believe we will reach true LGBTQ+ equity when every individual has the ability to be their true self and feels belonging in a culture of genuine acceptance.

    To learn more about Stonewall, check out these 12 Books to Commemorate the Stonewall Riots. The Featured Reads book display on the first floor of the Van Pelt and Opie Library highlights selected books in celebration of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. Check out the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s lending library for another offering of great titles, too!

    Leaning Into Discomfort: How to Dialogue Through Difference

    by Wayne Gersie, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

    Talking about certain social issues is something many find intimidating. These topics are touchy. They invite strong opinions and can involve debate and contention. Often individuals feel they don’t know enough to weigh in or worry they won’t articulate themselves clearly. But most often, what holds us back is simply fear of saying something wrong.

    To move forward in a quest for equity and justice for all, we cannot avoid discussions around race, sexual orientation, class and the like. Fears over unintended offense and acceptable terminology should not prevent us from having these tough conversations. It’s better to stumble through these interactions than to not have them at all. Fear of saying the wrong thing, whatever the motive, is a roadblock to progress. Some things are difficult to say and hear, but they need to be said and heard for that very reason. The only way to confront issues such as sexism, racism, and ableism is to talk more openly about them.

    Racism and all forms of bigotry are binary. You believe all groups are equal or you do not. There is no in-between. But just because there is no middle ground does not mean we cannot find common ground in such conversations. If we want a more equal and respectful society, all of us need to get over our avoidance of hard conversations. Equally as important, is how we respond to others when we are engaged in these discussions. Check the judgment, condescension, and shame when talking with one who may have contrary views. Avoid becoming defensive. Listen with the intention of learning and speak with the intention to build understanding. “

    “Just because there is no middle ground does not mean we cannot find common ground.”

    We will misspeak. We will make mistakes. We should expect to be corrected. It is not always going to be comfortable or easy. But getting it wrong is how we learn to get it right. Silence is complicity. If we truly care about social justice, we must ignore our discomfort. Fear does not justify inaction. We can’t be so afraid of making a mistake or being criticized that we don’t even try to do what is right. We are all poorer for the conversations that never happen.

    Meet Wayne Gersie,Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

    Hi everyone, my name is Wayne Gersie. I’m the new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion here at Michigan Tech University. I’m excited to be a part of your community, and I’m looking forward to having conversations with you about diversity, equity, inclusion and sense of belonging. Since I have been here, I have had the opportunity to move around and interact with many of you and get a really great sense of what it’s like to be a member of this community. Your stories have made me better understand what it means to live and work at Michigan Tech. You shared what you love about the community—but also some of the challenges you’ve experienced in your time here. I know we have work to do.

    While I certainly acknowledge that we’ve had some challenges this past semester, I’m encouraged by the conversations I have had with many of you in the short time I’ve been here. One of the first initiatives my office is focusing on is a 120-day action plan developed by the newly formed President’s Council Task Force for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I’ve heard many of you ask for action. I hear you. And this Task Force and its 120-day plan are a great first step.

    With the support of President Koubek and the President’s Council, we will identify and develop solutions that can provide an immediate benefit to both the community’s employees and its students. Speaking broadly, this team will develop a constructive dialogue from which actionable items will be drawn. It will be hard work, but I’m confident that we’ll be able to do it.

    Our website,, will serve as a hub for information about our office and our initiatives. It will also serve as a place where you can see the notes, progress and goals the Task Force develops throughout these critical next couple of months.

    In the meantime, if you have questions, suggestions, or just want to talk, please reach out to our office.

    Thank you for helping create a Michigan Tech where everyone feels welcome. Together, we are better.

    Diversity—Why You Should Care

    by Wayne Gersie, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

    Diversity comes in many forms: race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, ability, age, and socioeconomic background, to name a few. All of these characteristics contribute to one’s own experience and understanding of the world. How has diversity impacted your own life? For example, how diverse is your neighborhood? School? Place of work? Group of friends? And if our lives tend to lack diversity, why should we care?

    There are some compelling reasons to seek out diversity across all aspects of our lives. If you experience diversity in your everyday life, you will have regular exposure to people, cultures, traditions, and practices that are unlike your own. Such exposure enriches our lives, stimulates and inspires us, and deepens our understanding of the benefit of differences. Not only will you augment your social development, but you will also increase your understanding of the world and enhance your ability to communicate. You will interact with communities and concepts with which you are unfamiliar and gain an enriched understanding of life. Becoming a global citizen who has a broad understanding of the wider world will be of benefit, whether you are traveling to a new country, working with diverse co-workers, or just reading about events in the news.

    “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

    – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Diversity undoubtedly deepens and broadens your perspectives. Bringing together people from various backgrounds can help generate new ideas, transform vantage points, and catalyze methods for problem-solving that you may have never considered before. Quite simply, diversity fosters innovation.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, increasing diversity is the path to not just tolerance of differences but true acceptance and appreciation of them. Through contact, communication, and increased familiarity with people of many different backgrounds, we can diminish the misconceptions and prejudices that fuel discrimination. Strive for more diversity in your life. It will make a difference. When we listen and learn from others—and celebrate both what we have in common and where we differ—inclusion, belonging, and justice follows.