CASAA’s Inaugural Symposium Celebrates Progress, Explores Areas of Focus in Arcadia’s CABR Initiatives  

By Dan DiPrinzio | April 14, 2023

The Center for Antiracist Scholarship, Advocacy, and Action (CASAA) hosted its inaugural Antiracism and Social Justice Symposium on April 10 and 11, featuring faculty, staff, students, alumni, and members of the surrounding community. 

The symposium, supported by a $300,000 grant by the W.W. Kellogg Foundation, provided a space for open dialogue about the ways in which racism, obstacles to racial equity, and other impediments to social justice have impacted and continue to impact the local, national, and global community. 

CASAA was created in November 2021 under the Combating Anti-Black Racism (CABR) initiative launched by the university in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since then, CABR and CASAA have worked to implement justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout the campus community. 

Some of that work was on display during the symposium. 

On Monday, Arcadia University President Ajay Nair welcomed attendees, noting that, as a first-generation college student himself, he knows how important inclusivity and affirmation are for students of color and that we should measure part of our success by the individuals we include, not those that we exclude. 

“Inclusivity and access to education are synergistic,” said President Nair. “DEI efforts can give life to a University. I hope this event continues to grow each year at Arcadia.” 

Dr. Rachel Collins, director of the First-Year Writing at Arcadia, and Dr. Willow DiPasquale, adjunct professor of English at Arcadia, outlined the redesigned first-year English course, called EN101: Thought, Expression, and Advocacy. Starting next year, the course will explore contract grading between students and instructors to place emphasis on learning instead of focusing on a grade. The course will also work to shift the campus culture towards antiracism by implementing linguistic racial justice and preparing students to use writing as a form of advocacy. 

“Because Arcadia is a predominately white institution, our leaders, faculty, and staff needed to learn and grow on a personal level, through training opportunities and campus programs,” said Dr. Jeff Rutenbeck, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “And while we have made what I feel is good progress on that…the further we go, the more progress we make, the further we have to go.”

The CASAA Antiracism and Social Justice Symposium was co-sponsored by CASAA; Arcadia University Athletics; the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring (CTLM); the College of Health Sciences; Counseling Services; University Marketing and Communications; the Department of English; the Department of Biology; the Department of Media and Communication; the Department of Psychology; the Department of Public Health, the Department of Visual and Performing Arts; the Division of Civic and Global Engagement; the Gateway/ACT101 Program; the Humanities Research Lab; the Office of Access, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OAEDI); the Office of Enrollment Management; the Office of the Provost; the Pan African Studies Collective; the School of Education; and the Social Justice Society.

Arcadia offers a special thanks to Dr. Christopher Allen Varlack, CASAA Executive Director, Dr. Favian Martin, CASAA Associate Director, Ms. Deja Edwards, CASAA Administrative Assistant, and Dr. Doreen Loury, CASAA Founding Executive Director and CASAA Community Council Coordinator, for their efforts in organizing the Antiracism and Social Justice Symposium.