Educational, inspiring, affirming, impactful, insightful, engaging, and encouraging.
These are just a few adjectives participants used to describe Ball State’s recent virtual conversation on Antiracism, Intersectionality, and Empowerment. The event drew over 100 participants, as students, staff, and faculty expressed commitment to achieving equity and inclusive excellence.
This conversation is just beginning.
While the College of Sciences and Humanities offers courses that center Black voices and experiences in the African American studies minor, the recently formed Student Antiracism and Intersectionality Advisory Council (SAIAC) is on a mission to realize equitable change throughout the Ball State campus and beyond.
New Campus-Wide Course Offerings
One of the first action points toward achieving equity and inclusive excellence has been the development and addition of a campus-wide course that focuses on discussions of race, power, and intersectionality. Communications studies and political science major Jordyn Blythe felt inspired to act after seeing Dr. Beverly Tatum speak at Ball State in January. Dr. Tatum underscored the importance of academic institutions engaging their students in intercultural dialogues and suggested offering classes for credit as a means of facilitating meaningful conversations. Blythe recalls, “After the talk ended, I saw Dr. Rutter (African American Studies affiliate faculty) and told her that I thought we should pursue this on campus, and she immediately jumped on the idea.” They began planning.
Blythe and several other students alongside Dr. Emily Rutter worked with Drs. Bartlett and Frausto to craft their syllabus for the HONR 199: Understanding Race and Becoming an Antiracist, which launched this fall. They are currently circulating a race and intersectionality survey that will help them plan the newly launched Understanding Race, Anti-Racism, and Intersectionality course (ENG 369) for Spring 2021.
Dr. Rutter notes that the long-term goal for the Understanding Race and Becoming an Antiracist course is for it to be adopted into Ball State’s core curriculum so that students throughout the campus will have the opportunity to build their consciousness about intersectionality, anti-racism, and social justice.
Creating the SAIAC
In the planning phase of these courses, Dr. Rutter and her students recognized the need for collaborative voices to guide Ball State toward more equitable conversations, course offerings, and policies. They formed the Student Antiracism and Intersectionality Advisory Council. Dr. Rutter explains:
The mission of the Student Antiracism and Intersectionality Advisory Council (SAIAC) at Ball State University is to develop strategies that will cultivate understandings of race and intersectionality while dismantling racist ideologies. We aim to equip students and educators of all backgrounds with materials and knowledge on how to be anti-racists on campus and in all of their endeavors.
For many of the students involved in the SAIAC, the work is deeply personal. Senior Ball State student and SAIAC leader, Aric Fulton, notes:
My racial identity is inextricably connected to my perspective on diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. I am a Black man; I live my life and do my work as a Black man. I am a son of a Black mother. So, my perspective on those topics is a lived perspective and experience…We know that we live in a country that has been built on systemically racist policies and that much of what we work to address is the result of those policies. The work for me is deeply personal because, quite literally, the well-being of my family and my future children is at risk.
Fulton explains that one of the purposes of SAIAC is to help Ball state personnel and students understand how facets of systemic racism and bias have contributed to their Ball State experience. He says, “As we work together to make Ball State a more inclusive and supportive environment, we must have these tough conversations to bring these issues to the forefront of our consciousness so we can strategize and improve the climate here.”
SAIAC social media strategist Ella Zumbaugh adds, “Personally, this work has been rewarding and has changed me for the better. My goals for SAIAC are to reach every corner of this campus and make sure anti-racist conversations are being had, and that we make lasting changes to make this campus safer and work better for everyone. I want our campus, in and outside of the classroom, to be anti-racist in every way possible and use intersectional frameworks.”
Generating positive change on campus
Even in its infancy, the SAIAC is generating positive change on campus. “We have an incredible social media presence,” notes Aric Fulton. Much of their messaging and buzz is circulating through their Instagram account, managed by Zumbaugh. She says, “Being a part of starting the Instagram has created an outlet for the information that we need to see in our media. The response to the page is more than I could’ve hoped for. People have been messaging us wanting to get involved and communicating to us that they appreciate what we do.” She says this kind of response gives her hope for a more equitable Ball State and global future.
Fulton also notes encouraging changes he’s witnessed, “I have been approached by students, faculty, and staff about my involvement with the council and how we’ve served as a resource to get conversations going for them.” The SAIAC plans to hold another campus conversation in spring 2021, and the council leaders are hopeful that such conversations will continue to effect growth. “[These] experiences give me hope that some of our most persistent inequities and injustices will be resolved through the efforts of strong-minded, kind-hearted, resilient, and community-oriented people like those a part of the council,” says Fulton.
How to connect with the SAIAC:
- Follow their Instagram and visit their companion website that includes anti-racism and intersectionality resources for their peers as well as faculty and staff.
- For their campus conversation in spring 2021, they are soliciting suggestions for topics and formats here.
- If you are a Ball State undergraduate and have not yet completed the race and intersectionality survey, please do so here.
- Finally, register for the Spring 2021 ENG 369 course: Understanding Race, Anti-Racism, and Intersectionality course with Dr. Rutter. This is a one-credit, student-centered course that will focus on discussion, reflection, and action plans.
Consider Minoring in African American Studies
The African American studies minor offers students the opportunity to more deeply explore how race and resistance have shaped American culture. Also, how historical and contemporary events impact our national consciousness. In addition to three core classes, faculty members from various departments contribute elective courses that discuss issues of race in specific disciplines. Fulton notes his transformative experience in African American studies (AFAM):
Through AFAM studies, I received instruction that was centered in the experiences of Black folk through programming and community-engaged work. The AFAM studies minor and [coursework with] Dr. Rutter (African American Literature) gave me the opportunity to examine the interrelated dynamics of class, gender and race, and were the catalysts for the path that I am on today.
African American Studies affiliate faculty member, Dr. Emily Rutter says:
I see the African American studies minor as crucial to all of the work I engage in on campus. Especially at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI), it is vital to have programming and curricula that affirm Black identities and highlight the indispensable roles that Black Americans play in our nation’s past, present, and future.
Students who pursue a minor in African American studies will be equipped to campaign for equity in their future workplaces and lead tough conversations. Just like those being facilitated by the SAIAC.
Jordyn Blythe knows these conversations are tough, but she ends with a note of hope:
I just want to say that the work SAIAC is doing and is challenging the campus to do is hard work. It is so uncomfortable to have to dig in and truly reflect on ourselves to see what prejudices or problematic ideas we’re holding. The work is so incredibly rewarding, though, and so very valuable. I truly believe we’re working to make this piece of the world a better place and that’s all I can ask for.
Ball State is committed to achieving equity and inclusive excellence, and we’re thankful for the work of African American studies and the SAIAC.