This past Monday I was fortunate enough to attend the Dominion Lecture sponsored by JMU’s Madison Caucus for Gender Equality, in partnership with The Office of the Provost. The Caucus brings a notable speaker to campus to address the students, faculty and staff in order to address issues that are of urgent importance to JMU.
This year the lecture was given by Dr. Leah P. Hollis who has extensive experience in leadership and faculty positions in higher education. She is also the Founder and President of President of Patricia Berkly, LLC, a diversity training and consulting group and is a published author.
While Dr. Hollis’ speech focused on the fact that we cannot just say diversity will happen someday, that it is here all around us and we can no longer focus on “tolerance.” She explains that we must truly try to understand each other and how our life experiences make us different. I think that this was an awesome point because for so long we have been taught to “not judge someone based on their skin color (or gender, or sexual orientation or any other identifier).” But simply not judging someone is really not good enough. She highlighted the fact that we need to work with a diverse group of people in order to be able to innovate and create progress.
She continued on to explain that workplace bullying tends to happen to those who are more marginalized by society. The three groups that seem to experience bullying most frequently are African Americans, Women and those that identify as LGBTQ. I thought this was interesting because these are the people who tend to be bullied in school as well. I can remember many times when I wanted to play with the boys at recess but it was “no girls allowed.” It’s kind of crazy to think that this type of mentality can carry on into adulthood and the workplace too.
One of the most important parts of her speech in my opinion was that she explained title 7. This was really necessary because it is very possible that when I graduate and get a job, I could have a “bully” boss or coworker that harasses me. It’s extremely important to know your rights and what you can do to get out of a situation because otherwise you may feel trapped with no way out. After explaining all of the legal aspects and lawsuits that can come from harassment and bullying, she gave a quote that really stuck with me:
“It’s a whole lot easier to just be nice to each other.”
It made me so happy to see that JMU is making an effort to have a faculty that is not just tolerant of one another, but is whole heartedly accepting of everyone. Dr. Hollis’ lecture will be available on the Caucus’ website within the next week and previous lectures are archived here if you’re interested. The speakers are all amazing! If you went to the lecture I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!