In the summer of 2020, the Office of International Affairs (OIA), including inbound staff, the Education Abroad team and a representative from Temple Rome, formed a division-wide Anti-Racism Taskforce to address this complex issue and provide context and understanding for Temple’s international student community and OIA staff.
“Amidst the tragic killing of George Floyd and other innocent people of color in the United States, the rising voice against racism and police brutality in the U.S. has given urgency to this cause and clarified the need to form our taskforce. We want to provide a platform for discussion among OIA staff and international students, not only about racism in the U.S., but also throughout the world,” said Leah Hetzell, EdD, director of International Student Affairs who is leading the taskforce.
This initiative is all the more important for international students who without context may not fully understand what U.S. protests are about.
“We must acknowledge that the journey to equality is a work in progress in the U.S. that can only advance with our collective commitment to specific action on both a local and global scale,” said Assistant Vice President for International Affairs, Martyn J. Miller, PhD.
OIA’s Anti-Racism Taskforce is made up of four subcommittees (Mission/Vision, Student Experience & Education, Professional Development, Internal Review), which aim to:
- Develop a working mission and vision and share our story.
- Improve our students’ understanding and experience through educational events.
- Promote professional development through training and our Shifting Culture newsletter.
- Complete an internal review of policies and procedures in OIA to improve access and opportunity for diverse candidates.
One of the first events the Student Experience team implemented was a session for new international students entitled “Racism and Diversity in the U.S.” Presented by OIA staff in partnership with the IDEAL (Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership) office, this session led students through an exploration of personal values and biases, social identities, relevant concepts such as white supremacy and privilege, and an overview of relevant moments in U.S. history.
“For international students, learning about the racial situation in the U.S. can be startling. The strangeness of race in this country, and how invisible it often seems to those within it, might even push international students to wonder, ‘What problems are there in my country that are strange yet invisible to me?’ Ultimately, international students discussing race in the U.S. is a recipe to break the status quo,” said international student Fernando Gaxiola, KLN ’24.
For students and staff, the work has just begun.
By Rachel V. Jenkins, Marketing Manager, International Affairs