Students take on gender, cultural issues

From Corban College, Salem

Student Life raises awareness of gender and multicultural issues

Nathan Geer, dean of students, is passionate about human dignity. He wants all students, no matter their gender or cultural background, to feel comfortable and at home on campus. The #corbanconversations movement is only a small part of this goal.

Geer is a member of a diversity committee created to make sure different cultures are represented and given a voice.

“The diversity committee has been working toward raising awareness across campus,” Geer said. “Like the various cultures represented by our increasing Indonesianstudents, we thought it’s important that we hear various voices. After the gender survey went through we realized there’s a common thread here of human dignity that we want to emphasis and acknowledge.”

The gender survey revealed a common thread of human dignity—the reason for pursuing #corbanconversations in the first place. The diversity committee created a visual dignity campaign in order to begin the journey to both gender and multicultural equality.

“Hashtag corbanconversations was a sidebar of that, but it’s become the prominent feature of it. Our [first] goal is to simply raise awareness,” Geer said.

The intention going forward is to create cultural competence through awareness, knowledge and skill. Awareness comes first, and #corbanconversations plays a big role in that. Geer hopes that awareness will lead to positive change.

“What I love to hear about is that students, faculty and staff are talking about issues like gender or multiculturalism,” Geer said. “I like hearing that conversations are happening without prompting. Like Indonesian students sharing with their residence hall about their experiences here at Corban. Or the fact that there are chopsticks every day in the dining hall and that it’s not a special thing we pull out when we have students from another country. That’s who we are. That’s what I’m hoping for; that we become a more multicultural campus, so that whoever visits says hey, I could see myself here because I see things meaningful to me here.”

Definitions are important when it comes to issues of human dignity. The definition determines the interaction students will have with the idea. Geer defined what he means by multicultural equality.

“It is seeing the value and the benefit in all cultures and realizing that no culture has it exactly right,” Geer said. “No matter who you engage with, they’re bringing something to the table that you can learn from. That’s what I pursue.”

Multicultural equality is not the only issue #corbanconversations seeks to address. Everything from culture to gender to theology has been discussed. The chalkboard in Common Grounds is the main thoroughfare for questions, and the anonymous board has led some students to change the posted question.

“We’ve been hijacked a few times on the board, which didn’t bother me,” Geer said. “What I find interesting is that subject has changed to more theological matters. Again, that’s fine, and they were good questions. I do what to keep the focus on gender issues and cultural equality, otherwise we’ll get lost in theology.”

The vagueness of the #corbanconversations board has unnerved some students. Geer clarified the reason behind the vague questions and explained that the hashtag movement draws people in with its lack of context. Geer is encouraged because the mere fact that students want to know the context shows their interest.

The hashtag discussions are for awareness and raising interest, which means it’s only the beginning. A healthy sense of human dignity requires knowledge and skill as well. Geer hopes to create future opportunities to grow.

“If we move the model from awareness to knowledge, then there needs to be opportunity for students, faculty and staff to engage in educational development,” Geer said.

He mentioned chapel speakers and cultural workshops as future possibilities for education about these issues.

“We want to move forward together, regardless of speed,” Geer said.

By Sophia Walz

Managing Editor, The Hilltop

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