Arcadia Community Unites to “Break the Silence” on Racism

By Caitlin Burns | December 8, 2017

Students, faculty, staff, and trustees joined together on Dec. 8 to “break the silence” about racism.

The Day of Silence was hosted by Melanin in Action (MIA) and POWER, with additional collaboration by Pan-African Studies; Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice Department; Office of the Provost; Young Democratic Socialists of Arcadia University; and Act 101/Gateway to Success, and focused on igniting cultural change on campus.

“When Laurenne Bamdele [president of POWER] and I began planning the Day of Silence in early October, we never believed that it would be something adopted by the entire campus, but we were pleasantly surprised,” said Aliyah Abraham ’18, president and founder of MIA. “As a campus, we came together to stand against racism with a show of solidarity.”

At 10 a.m. and noon, five-minute moments of silence were observed. A Break the Silence workshop was held at 2 p.m., led by the student groups as a united front. Abraham opened by sharing that she reached out to President-elect Ajay Nair, the first person of color elected to the position at Arcadia University, and had already received a note of encouragement. The room erupted in applause.

Faculty members Dr. Doreen Loury, Dr. Angela McNeil, and Dr. Ana Maria Garcia set the program for the day’s events. Associate Provost Dr. Sandra Crenshaw presented a ‘Design Thinking’ approach to the community, a methodology in which the first step brings the University community members together to empathize, ask questions and speak about racism on campus. Then, attendees gathered into small groups to develop questions focusing on how to improve the racial climate together. The resulting questions will be central to a series of events in the spring organized by the Office of the Provost.

“Sometimes in order to heal, you must first do the difficult part in seeing what our shortcomings have been,” said Abraham. “Design Thinking allows for you to ask questions. If we keep asking questions and are willing to put in the hard work, then I have no doubt that we will be able to look back and deem [these events] a success– a catalyst for Arcadia’s culture shift for the better.”

The day brought community members from all backgrounds together, including Chair of the Board of Trustees Alison (Aaron) Madsen, Esq., ’85 and Trustees Susan Saxer ’71 and Lois Haber ’71, ’16H, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. John Hoffman, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Mark Lapreziosa, and representatives from many departments, offices, and student organizations on campus.