Anti-racism reflection and action cohort forming for campus change

Alexis Lovewell, Staff writer

Here at Mercyhurst University, a new cohort called “Anti-racism Reflection and Action” is starting to form. This group was established through the Office for Mission and is comprised of students, staff and faculty who are passionate about the topic of anti-racism.

The goal of this cohort is to educate the public on the topic of racism and how it affects this campus and broader community, as well as to help remove systemic, covert and unrealized racism from campus.

The group grew out of the university’s action plan for equity, inclusion and justice. Vice president for Mission Integration, Greg Baker, Ph.D., provided insight into the formation of this group.

“Sr. Natalie Rossi began discussing possibilities for deeper types of trainings and she quickly connected with the Script Project, an excellent local nonprofit that helps to facilitate this type of learning,” said Baker. “The final structure of this cohort was formulated amidst discussions between Sr. Natalie, myself, Adrienne Riegle, Ph.D., the Social Work Department, who also works with the Script Project, and Dr. Janelle Newman from the Script Project.”

Anyone who is part of the Mercyhurst community can join this group. Other leaders of this group include graduate student Alexis Jones, officer for Equity, Justice and Inclusion, Sr. Natalie Rossi and sociology professor, Adrienne Riegle, Ph.D.

They are encouraging any student, faculty or staff member who is truly passionate about the topic of racism to join this cohort. All you need to do is get in contact with any of the leaders mentioned above.

During this Spring 2021 semester, this cohort will be doing some self-guided readings and reflection, listening to speakers and viewing various resources that help unpack issues about anti-racism, white supremacy and other related topics.

Members of this group will be reflecting on these various topics and what it means to them individually and as a Mercyhurst community.

By doing these various activities, the cohort would like to normalize talking about racism and to do better at taking initiative and making personal commitments to do their best to correct these injustices.

Riegle said she is excited to get started this coming week with the group.

“This week we’re rolling out the initial communication to the 26 people who signed up to be a part of it. They’re completing a brief, initial online survey to lay the foundation for customized learning based on the responses of participants,” Riegle said.

As all members of the Mercyhurst community know, Mercyhurst University does its best to fulfill the Mercy Mission in all they do. Jones believes that this cohort truly does represent the core values of Mercyhurst.

“The core values of the Mercy mission represent truth and unity. Many are looking for change relating to diversity, equity and inclusion within our university that will reach out into the community and the Mercy Mission gives us the tools and opportunity to express those core values,” said Jones. “I think it is important to be reminded of the core values and how they have become the definition of what the cohort is about.”

This cohort has made it a point that members of this group will be “acknowledged by the university,” according to group advertisements. Since this cohort is so important to these leaders, each member will be receiving a certificate of some kind. The leaders are also exploring the idea of a small meaningful gift for each member of the cohort.

The leaders believe that the most important aspect of this group is that people are joining because they truly want to, and because they want to become better versions of themselves.

Baker believes that starting these hard conversations now is important so the Mercyhurst community can grow as one and improve together.

“Everyone in the Mercyhurst community can help us to make this critical concern our critical concern as a campus community,” said Baker. “People need to be talking about anti-racism in the classroom, in the locker room, at clubs and organizations, in campus ministry, in residence halls and so on.”

The members of this cohort hope that the Mercyhurst community continues initiatives like this and gains more members. Anyone can join this cohort, as mentioned above. To get more information, feel free to reach out to any of the leaders mentioned in this article by email.

It is important that we make these steps toward taking ownership of these issues on campus and in the community. We must take advantage of this cohort and take action in solving issues involving racism.