David Tuttle, dean of students, held a dinner for Trinityâ€™s Black Student Union (BSU) at his house on Sept. 26.
Tuttle has been holding annual dinners for BSU for the past few years.Â Tuttle elaborated on the importance of holding administrative dinners such as these.
â€œItâ€™s a good population to touch base with as an administrator and as the dean of students, to find out about their experience at Trinity,â€ Tuttle said. â€œA lot of times youâ€™ll see a pattern on a campus where an incident happens, and then thereâ€™s this reaction, and then thereâ€™s a program. Having communication channels when there is not a prominent incident is important.Â Sometimes itâ€™s humbling, and sometimes itâ€™s not stuff I necessarily want to hear, but thatâ€™s why you do it. These are very real thoughts, real feelings and real issues that the students are facing.â€
Tuttle feels that progress has been made after past dinners with BSU and other student groups.
â€œLast year with TULA [Trinity University Latino Association], they raised the issue that many of them had parents who didnâ€™t speak English, so coming to orientation didnâ€™t feel welcoming to them,â€ Tuttle said. â€œSo that spawned the idea that we should do a special luncheon during orientation for our Latino students and their families and include Spanish-speaking faculty and staff, including our own president. So once you start down that road, we decided we should do the same thing for our African-American students and their families.â€
Stacy Davidson, faculty advisor for BSU, explained the importance of this dinner from her perspective.
â€œI believe it is important for these dinners to take place so administrators can hear firsthand about the experiences of African-American students on Trinityâ€™s campus,â€ Davidson wrote in an email interview. â€œThey were able to communicate what that experience is like for them, help him to understand what is unique about that experience. I enjoyed listening to the students share their experiences and express themselves with someone who can have a positive impact on their experiences as students.â€
Khaniya Russell, sophomore history major, attended Tuttleâ€™s BSU dinner for the first time this year.
â€œAt dinner we discussed how members of BSU felt as African-American students on Trinityâ€™s campus,â€ Russell wrote in an email interview. â€œThe discussion encompassed professor-student relationships, the relationship we hope to develop with dean Tuttle, and a more widespread form of outreach on our organizationâ€™s part. In the past, we have felt a disproportionate lack of support from administration when things that affect our community occur. Dean Tuttle graciously listened to our grievances and provided us with realistic, tangible goals of his to fill that void and provide us with a more consistent source of support.â€
Russell expressed her hope and belief that Tuttle was receptive to hearing about times administration has failed in the past. Â Â Â
â€œI learned that dean Tuttle is willing to be a valuable ally to our organization now that we have discussed ways in which he can serve as a partner to us in our endeavors both as a cultural organization and as students of color attending a PWI [predominantly white institution],â€ Russell wrote. â€œAfter the dinner, I truly believe we, on both sides, seek to develop and strengthen the relationship between administration and students of color on campus.â€ Â
Tuttle discussed the possibility of starting some kind of dialogue about racial and social justice issues.
â€œWe will probably try to do [this] as time permits, probably as a series and probably starting sometime this fall,â€ Tuttle said. â€œI think that one of the things that our students crave is not just having speakers come in and telling them what to think, and not just having faculty-facilitated discussions. They want student-to-student conversations.â€
Tuttle also mentioned other ideas that would allow future progress to be made on campus.
â€œNot just myself, but others have had interest in creating a multicultural lounge on campus, so weâ€™re looking at that and hoping that next year weâ€™ll have a space in the Coates center that is really a safe haven for people to go into and will hopefully be adjacent to wherever our new director of diversity and inclusion is,â€ Tuttle said. â€œWe have to open our eyes to the experience of our students and their families, and if we express diversity as a value we have to do tangible things to show that weâ€™re going to help the best that we can to make that happen.â€
More information about Trinity University Black Student Union can be found on the groupâ€™s Facebook page. BSU can be reached at email@example.com.