I’m a bit flummoxed by the following announcements of University-sponsored Zoom meetings emailed to us by our local Diversity and Inclusion Office.
Group Wellness Coaching for Students of ColorMonday, October 12: 6 – 8 p.m.
Join the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA) and UChicago Student Wellness for this opportunity to work through shared wellness concerns and experiences in an open and supportive environment. Students will design wellness action plans and set goals for enhancing well-being. The session will be led by health educator Cassidy Wade. It is open to students of color in the College, graduate divisions, and professional schools.
Virtual Community for Black Women: Group Wellness Coaching
Thursday, October 15: 6 – 8 p.m.
Join OMSA and UChicago Student Wellness for an opportunity to work through shared wellness concerns and experiences in an open and supportive environment. Students will design wellness action plans and set goals for enhancing well-being. The session will be led by health educator Cassidy Wade. It is open to Black women, femmes, and gender non-conforming folx in the College, graduate divisions, and professional schools.
At first I thought these looked like “safe spaces”, but the idea of University-sponsored “safe spaces” was rejected by our administration in a letter sent by the Dean to incoming first-year students in 2016:
Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
Yet these meetings aren’t clearly ones where individuals even have the possibility to “retreat from ideas and perspectives not their own”. That may be part of this, but it seems to be about health—or “wellness”, whatever that means in this context. Are these “less safe” or “more safe” than intellectual safe spaces?
What bothers me about this are that first, I do recognize that students of color, or gays, or any other group that wants to talk amongst themselves, should be able to do so. After all, second-wave feminism was moved forward by the presence of many women’s support groups, with no men allowed, and I remember these well. But the groups above don’t seem to have much to do with social progress. Rather, they seem to be about the health of groups (mental, physical or both?). If that’s the case, what health concerns are unique to students of color?
And, in the second seminar, what health concerns are unique to the mix of students of color, femmes, and gender non-conforming “folkx”? (Is “folkx” a new woke word?)
Further, these seem to be opportunities for discussions of wellness that are limited to certain ethnic groups or groups with an atypical gender or sexuality profile. Are these opportunities denied to other people? Do, say, students from very poor backgrounds need such an opportunity as well, or perhaps older students? It seems to me that everyone could benefit from such a discussion—or at least the opportunity to be part of such a discussion.
Finally, it seems to me that university-sponsored segregated events—events that explicitly bar people of some races and genders—should be offered only under the most extreme circumstances, if at all. And I can’t see what about these events warrants such segregation. If a group of students wants to organize their own meeting, then that’s fine, but having this happen with University approval makes me unsettled. Yes, these are Zoom meetings, and I’m not sure if that means you can participate and hide your visage, sexuality, and the like—but that would be duplicitous. It’s ironic that exclusion is practiced by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Perhaps I’m timorous about criticizing something put on by my own university, and perhaps I don’t understand what these events are about, but as written they disturb me as not inclusive but divisive. Am I wrong to feel that way?