BLM, diversity emphasized at town hall event


Courtesy of Brianna Rowland

MSC president Brianna Rowland helped to enact change on campus in regards to diversity initiatives and student safety.

The Office of Diversity Initiatives and the Multicultural Student Association worked together to hold a town hall meeting to share students’ stories of racial inequality in light of the national Black Lives Matter Movement.  

“The motivation or goal of having the town hall meeting was to spread awareness and to get the ball rolling on the conversations about diversity and Black Lives Matter, so that our campus understands and students feel safe,” said Brianna Rowland, the president of the MSC and a senior musical theatre major. 

The meeting gave students a chance to share their narratives with other students, as well as faculty and administration – a goal Georgia Costalas, the executive director of diversity affairs, highlighted.

“We wanted to get as many people as possible participating and talking about their experiences – their narratives – so that campus administration and others on campus could hear the narratives and better understand the students’ experience,” said Costalas. “The students presented everything in such an authentic, low-key, this is my life way. I think that was very impactful because they were just talking like, ‘This is what I live – this is what I go through every day on campus.’”

While the meeting opened listeners’ eyes to the everyday experiences of Black students and students of color, it was simply the start of many more conversations.

“MSC took an active leadership role, and they have a couple things in the pipeline,” said Erica Acosta, the associate director of Diversity Affairs. “One is to engage more with the deans and the faculty members – to talk about their experience and what they go through. The second one is having a sit down with our campus police.” 

Rowland explained some of her early plans for connecting with faculty and staff in the fall.

“We’re looking into setting up a presentation or some sort of activity in order to make sure that faculty and staff are on the same page as us and make sure that they aren’t subjecting students of color to micro or macro aggressions,” shared Rowland. “We want to focus on educating everyone and making sure that communication is open.”

The MSC and ODI have also connected with Christopher Jagoe, the chief of campus police, so that a relationship is formed before students are back on campus in the fall.

“The Wilkes-Barre Police reached out to further conversation and to make sure that all the African-American students and students of color feel safe on campus,” said Rowland. “Chief Jagoe spoke about meeting with the executive board of the MSC first, and then opening it up to a bigger scale.”

While both the MSC and ODI have a number of plans and have been working with administration, Rowland expressed her concern that the conversations may slow down.

“I don’t want this to be one of those things that gets really hyped up for a bit and then starts to slowly die down,” said Rowland. “I want it to be a topic of conversation 24/7. I know it’s heavy stuff, and sometimes you need the mental health break, but in order to keep pushing, this has to be the conversation 24/7.”

When students come back to school in the fall and want to contribute to the Black Lives Matter Movement on campus, Rowland encourages their support.

“When our sister clubs or other cultural clubs have events, then show your support. Join the Multicultural Student Coalition, do the major things to show you’re there with us and that you’re listening, rather than giving a quick look.”

Acosta echoed this message: “You don’t have to be in the front lines saying something, but show your support, and be there in solidarity. That means a lot because then we know who our allies are.”

Conversations about race can be challenging, but Acosta emphasized the importance of kindness.

“I might not agree with you, but I’m still going to be next to you. I am going to be kind to you because at the end of the day, we cry the same – we share pain the same. If we focus on those fundamentals, we can still be with one another,” explained Acosta. 

Students can watch for events in the fall with the MSC, such as a possible movie night or ice cream social.