Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Creating welcoming spaces vs. inviting black students

Last week at the "Expanding Access to Digital Humanities" workshop, Meg Smith gave a presentation discussing various issues concerning digital humanities (DH). Toward the end, she highlighted a really crucial point.

She talked about how there are many faculty, staff, and units on campuses that announce themselves as  welcoming spaces for diversity and African American students. But after working with a recent program, RISE-DH, which she, I, others, and black students collaborate on at SIUE, Meg noted that creating welcoming spaces is not necessarily the same as actively engaging and inviting black students into spaces. 

Just because you create a space doesn't guarantee black students will come.  

For "spaces," Meg was talking about DH Centers as well as other tech and humanities environments, but now I'm thinking about how universities face challenges and opportunities inviting black students into a variety of spaces on campuses. Folks haven't thought about it enough.  

During my years at SIUE, I've had the good fortune of contributing to the development of a couple of vibrant networks that involve large numbers of black students. The Student Opportunities for Academic Results (SOAR) on the one hand, and then African American literature studies courses on the other. Somewhere in between there, I also developed a few special projects that involved many students. 

But those programs are hardly the norm. And you'll hear quite a few students at SIUE discussing their feelings of isolation. It's not difficult to see many ways that they are excluded from an array of academic resources and spaces on campus. So there's a lot of work to do to address those problems. 

I'm glad that Meg's presentation at the workshop got me thinking on it a little more.  

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