St. Bonaventure will host more than two dozen lectures, movies and discussions this year designed to spur positive communication about race issues.
The university community is invited to join the campus dialogue on race and ethnicity that features programming developed by a committee of faculty, staff and student representatives during the summer months. Members of the campus community are encouraged to use the hashtag #RaceMatters on social media.
Some of the topics have a direct tie-in with the campus common read for 2015-16, “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson. The All Bonaventure Reads selection explores the inequity embedded in the U.S. criminal justice system and focuses mainly on the work of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., a legal practice Stevenson founded as a young lawyer.
“It’s no secret that deep and wide racial divisions still exist in this nation. You only have to turn on the television or scan a newspaper to see the evidence,” said Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., university president. “We’ve even had our own issues at St. Bonaventure.
“But we have a great opportunity here to begin the painstaking process of healing those wounds. I can’t think of a more important series of conversations our campus community can have. I’m deeply grateful to the good people here who’ve made this a priority for us to examine.”
The university will host five major speakers this fall beginning Friday, Sept. 11. The lectures are open to the public.
Dr. Breea Willingham, an assistant professor in criminal justice at Plattsburgh State University, will discuss “Race, Crime and the American Injustice System” at 3 p.m. in the amphitheater of the William F. Walsh Science Center.
In 2005, after spending 10 years covering crime, murder trials and school board meetings, Willingham left journalism and went back to school — as a college professor and doctoral student. In 2014, she graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo with a Ph.D. in American studies. Her dissertation, titled “What Good Would a College Degree Do for these Women? The Politics and Paradox of Teaching Higher Education in Women’s Prisons,” examines the ways that women instructors navigate the politics of teaching in prisons and jails to create safe learning spaces for incarcerated women to challenge the disempowering environment of their confinement.
Her research areas include higher education in women’s prisons, women and crime, black women’s prison writings, the impact of incarceration on black families, and race and crime. Willingham previously taught in St. Bonaventure’s journalism school as a visiting assistant professor.
On Thursday, Oct. 1, SBU will welcome back 2006 alumnus Dr. Matthew Cressler, is an assistant professor of religious studies at the College of Charleston (South Carolina) where he teaches courses on African American religions and black nationalism. He holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Northwestern University. His presentation begins at 4 p.m. in the University Chapel, Doyle Hall.
Dr. David Kirkland from New York University (NYU) will discuss “Why Just Mercy? Education as a Practice of Freedom” at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19, in the Robert R. Jones Board of Trustees Room, Doyle Hall. Kirkland is an associate professor of English and urban education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. This powerful and very personal presentation is based on more than a decade of research aimed at understanding the complexities of race and justice in education.
At 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, Sr. Helen Prejean will present “Dead Man Walking: The Journey Continues” in Rigas Theater of The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. Sr. Helen is known around the world for her tireless work against the death penalty. She has been instrumental in sparking national dialogue on capital punishment and in shaping the Catholic Church’s newly vigorous opposition to all executions. The author of “Dean Man Walking” and “The Death of Innocents,” she founded the non-profit Ministry Against the Death Penalty.
St. Bonaventure will also host senior attorney Charlotte Morrison and exonerated client Anthony Ray Hinton of the Equal Justice Initiative this semester on a date to be determined.
“Our campus community is composed of a multitude of races and ethnicities. This conversation is vital to recognizing our identity as Bonnies. Our student body is excited that our university has elected to shed light on these topics that impact our lives here and across our country,” said JW Cook, a St. Bonaventure junior from Brockport, N.Y., who is treasurer of the Student Government Association.
The university’s Residence Life staff will host three-part Civil Dialogue Series in residence halls. The dates and topics are:
Three movie nights have been scheduled and will include the showing of the movie, followed by a discussion with the audience.
In addition to the open discussions, gatherings at the Peace Pole near University Ministries will be announced throughout the semester.
Richard Trietley Jr., vice president for Student Affairs, serves as co-chair of the Racial Bias Education Committee.
“We feel that it is imperative for our community members to have forums in which to engage in the difficult and sometimes challenging dialogues necessary to overcome racial bias and bigotry. Our goal is an inclusive community that values and respects the dignity, talents and uniqueness of all of our members,” said Trietley.
“I’d like to offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to all of our Racial Bias Education Committee members who worked so diligently over the summer months to develop this comprehensive educational program for the 2015-16 academic year. Education and personal engagement are the critical first steps in a long-term process to achieve this reality,” he said.
“It is my privilege to work in common cause with this committed group representing all sectors of the university,” added Lana D. Benatovich, president of The National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York (NFJC) and a St. Bonaventure trustee.
“I believe that the Board of Trustees and administration is extremely proud of our diverse and talented students and our dedicated and outstanding faculty and staff. As we begin this school year, it is our goal to support each person and help to enlighten our community about the relevant concerns regarding race relations and inclusion nationally and on our campus,” said Benatovich.
All of the programs are open to the SBU community. For an updated schedule of events and a list of Cultural Diversity Passport Events, visit www.sbu.edu/RaceMatters.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #3 best college value in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
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