Rutgers launches new University-wide inclusion campaign
A new campaign was introduced to the Rutgers community this past summer to promote a more inclusive environment on campus.
According to the Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives page on the Rutgers Student Affairs website, the campaign seeks to reinforce a “learning environment that serves as a melting pot of ideas and cultures ... to enhance cross-cultural understanding, break down stereotypes, improve self awareness and prepare our students to be stronger, richer and more dynamic citizens.”
Much of the initiative is focused on emphasizing each individual’s right to be a member of the University. It is the first initiative of its kind at Rutgers.
“(We want) to drive the message home that all students belong here at Rutgers," said Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Salvador Mena. "This is a large place, there’s a lot happening that conveys messages of exclusion to students, whether it’s something they come across on campus or on the nightly news. We want to make sure every student feels part of the fabric of this community."
Many of the campaign’s logistics were conceived last year. Mena attributed the impetus of the idea’s birth to the “End Sexual Violence” campaign, which began three years ago. The campaign’s message is spread widely, with shirts and flyers as well as educational programs and helplines.
He said that the initiative’s success in resonating with students compelled Rutgers Student Affairs to achieve a similar result, but pertaining to the topic of inclusion.
To conceptualize and implement the campaign, Student Affairs collaborated closely with the Inclusion Campaign Committee and numerous other on-campus organizations. Headed by Ji Lee, the director of the Asian American Cultural Center and Senior Director of Student Engagement Tony Doody, the committee is composed of faculty members from across varied departments, such as Office of Disability Services and Leadership and Experiential Learning.
Although the committee is faculty-only, students have actively participated in efforts to disseminate the message of unity. A video, shown during orientation last summer, features University students who voiced individual struggles with inclusion and what they will do to abate this sentiment within Rutgers.
The #RUIDProject is another supplement within this initiative, one that is more comprehensive and more personal. The project explores the lives and inspirations of Rutgers students, written by Rutgers students.
Through this literary and photographic outlet, “diverse identities, experiences and reflections of the Rutgers student body” are highlighted, as well as the ways the University has helped shape their identities. #RUIDProject is solely a volunteer project, which relies on submissions from students who wish to share their stories.
As a recent initiative, the inclusion campaign has improvements and additions it wants to make for the upcoming years. At New Student Orientation, incoming students read Cornel West’s article, "Courage" and then joined faculty members in processing and analyzing the work. Mena said the committee aims to encourage more of these roundtable conversations, especially in the dining halls.
There are also plans to involve University faculty and staff more actively by holding candid discussions about the University, what it means to them and how they are utilizing their experiences and resources to make Rutgers their own, he said.
“The goal is not to try to control what people say, but to encourage them to think about what they’re saying and the intentions behind what they’re saying," Mena said. "We want (students) to understand that their expressions can have unintended consequences. If and when those things happen, we certainly look to engage students to have educational conversations around that.”
Kelly Kim is a School of Engineering sophomore. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum