The Baruch Honors program hosted a discussion about diversity, equity and inclusion on April 25, moderated by Harmony Osei, the honors program director.
The event aimed to better understand the experience and needs of students and alumni of the honors program.
“There is no quick fix,” Osei said. “We might not solve everything today; more than likely we won’t. Just give each other grace and know that the honors program is committed to this process and improving over time.”
Teona Pagan, a Macaulay Honors College alumna and activist who helped found a CUNY-wide Black Student Union, and Karanja Keita Carroll, a professor in the Department of Black and Latinx Studies, were invited as panelists to guide the conversation on the future of diversity within the honors program.
After discussion about fostering a more positive classroom environment, students came to a consensus that the Honors college should have its own form of teacher evaluations that can be submitted earlier in the semester.
One student brought up fear and discomfort in the classroom when it came to questioning the curriculum. Students said they would like to see honor courses that give students the room to ask questions and where professors properly acknowledge student experiences.
Another student added that they experience discomfort when professors say inappropriate comments in a room full of people of color, forcing students to think a certain way and not allowing the conversation to happen.
Another addressed concern was that students may feel like they cannot speak up. While they discussed course evaluations as a means for students to give feedback, they said the late course evaluation due dates prevent action from being taken to address the issue when the problem is occurring.
Students said the change would foster open communication and help balance the power dynamic between professors, grades and students.
“When I think of the importance of diversity it’s about bringing in the voices,” he said. “I think that an Honors college and as honor students you need to be able to do that. You need to have the support.”
Pagan encouraged students to remember that diversity has many different meanings.
“Diversity is not always about skin color,” she said. “It’s diversity of thought, diversity of background, diversity of language.”
Carroll also said diversity is broader and more complex.
“Diversity is not just Black and white,” he said “It’s diversity about every other person of color, it revolves around every gender and sexuality.”
Osei raised the question of how students can challenge the system.
Carroll answered that the journey starts with students being brave.
“Education is about liberating,” he said. “It’s about the transformation of oppressed people. We need to rethink why we are in these institutions.”