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Dear Dr.

Whitehurst,

Our names are ​Ilana Mosley​ and Sasha Neely, current first-year students at The Pennsylvania
State University. Two weeks ago on the 27th of February, we hosted a public deliberation with
nine of our peers to discuss inclusion initiatives here on Penn State’s University Park campus.
We had a total attendance of seven people, four males and three females. Below is a table that
breaks down the demographics of the attendants of our Public Deliberation.

Table 1. Demographics of attendants of Public Deliberation.


Gender Classification Age grouping Race

Participant 1 Female Community 24-30 White


Member

Participant 2 Male Student 17-24 White/ African


American

Participant 3 Male Student 17-24 African American

Participant 4 Female Student 17-24 Asian American

Participant 5 Female Student 17-24 White

Participant 6 Male Faculty/Dean 30-50 African American

Participant 7 Male Student 17-24 African American/


Asian American/
Native American/
Native Hawaiian

During our deliberation, we discussed educational mandates that could be put in place by the
University to increase inclusion on campus. The solutions that we came up with were a
university-wide sociology general education course, requiring every student to attend at least
two World In Conversation dialogue sessions, and online inclusion training modeled after SAFE
and AWARE. On the following page is a table that details the advantages and disadvantages of
each solution.

Table 2. Advantages and Disadvantages of each solution.


Online Diversity Training
Possible Advantages: Trade-Offs:
1. Would teach students how to speak 1. Students may not take the online
to one another without the fear of training seriously
offending one of their peers 2. Case study: when cultural
2. Easily accessible for students, can competency training was instituted at
complete on their own time when it is the University of Wisconsin -
most convenient for them Madison, students felt like they were
3. More economical than having an being told how to think and speak
in-person class

Sociology General Education Course


Possible Advantages: Trade-Offs:
1. Sociology courses increase 1. Could be perceived as a waste of
awareness to outside issues - 72% time by students who are stressed
of students at Central Michigan with the workloads of other courses
University believed that sociology 2. Logistics - there are approximately
courses helped increase sensitivity 12,000 undergraduate freshmen
to world events students at University Park every
2. Inclusion within the classroom helps year
students learn - an NIH study
showed that making students
uncomfortable promotes active
learning

World in Conversation
Possible Advantages: Trade-Offs:
1. Track record of success - in a 1. Student-staffed, number of dialogues
survey, ​75% of participants stated limited by availability of trained
that they “Encountered a perspective students
with which [they were] not familiar.” 2. A single session of conversation may
2. Informal setting may make students pose less benefit for students
more comfortable 3. An ongoing interaction through a
3. Dialogue is a form of active semester may be more difficult due
engagement to the high volume of students

During the discussion of a university-wide sociology general education course, a common


theme was that students would not be comfortable with discussing inclusion with such a large
group of people. Students might be reluctant to share their experiences with the class for fear of
ridicule from a large group. Large groups are less intimate and authentic which would make it
more difficult to be receptive of a message of inclusion. All of the students also unanimously
agreed that it was unnatural to “teach” inclusion and that it might have adverse effects. Inclusion
is something that is learned through experiences and socialization, not by sitting down in a
classroom and reading through powerpoints. Another issue that was commonly brought up was
that students might not take it seriously since it is not a major course. Students brought up the
point that they do not take their current general education courses seriously and view them as
being “blow off classes” or “just a graduation requirement.”

Key Quotes:
● “ It is easier to speak in a small group”
● “ You can’t teach inclusion”
● “ Learning to be inclusive comes from experiences and talking to others”
● “White students are less likely to interact with others outside of their race”
● “ Inclusion is a matter of understanding”
● “ Students are more focused on their major courses”
● “ Students won’t take it seriously. Gen Eds are blow off classes.”

An online inclusion training course modeled after SAFE and AWARE was by far the least
accepted by the participants. The most common complaint about an online inclusion course was
that it was “robotic”, no one would really learn anything because they are not interacting with
anyone and having the conversations that are critical to truly learning how to be inclusive.
Students also commented that no one that they knew, including themselves, took SAFE and
AWARE seriously; they just rushed through it so that they could meet their orientation
requirements and schedule classes.

Key Quotes:
● “ Computer program teaching you about diversity is dumb”
● “ It [learning about inclusion] would be better in person, online training is too passive”
● “ Online training would not be helpful because it’s too robotic”
● “ There is no speaking with others so there is no true learning about inclusivity”

As identified in the quotations above, the participants of our deliberation felt that inclusion
initiatives were most effective when they were organic processes, growing out of natural
interactions and fostering relationships with distinct individuals. Our group came to the uniform
conclusion that a lecture-based sociology general education course and/or an online learning
module were too artificial and would not serve students in the manner intended. Instead, they
highly favored the notion of mandatory World in Conversation sessions. Our participants felt that
the lessons of inclusion would manifest themselves naturally as students communicated in a
space designed to encourage active engagement, constructive criticism, and mutual learning.

Key Quotes:
● “Conversation isn’t safe, it forces people to engage and confront”
● “The smaller-scale can reach people better”
● “Discussion informs students, they can make an opinion more concrete”
● “It’s better to attend several times”
● “World In Conversation encourages students to continue the conversation outside of a
classroom setting”

After listening to the critiques of each solution, we believe that the most effective solution to the
lack of inclusion on campus is requiring every student to attend at least two World In
Conversations. It was a general consensus that the attendance of two or more World In
Conversations would be more effective in fostering inclusivity on campus because by attending
more than one the conversation is continued. Continuing the conversation allows students to
receive the repetition that is necessary for active learning while making them more comfortable
with discussing inclusion.

Unfortunately, current policy does not mandate all incoming freshmen to take part in one World
in Conversation dialogue, much less two or more. We identified this as an important area for
improvement and would like the University’s Office of Educational Equity to address this
disparity between college requirements. We would like to thank you for your consideration on
this crucial topic; if you would like to speak to us in more detail or need more information, we
can be contacted by email at either svn5284@psu.edu or ​ixm57@psu.edu​. We look forward to
your response.

Sincerely,

Ilana Mosley​ & Sasha Neely