Thoughts and reflections on the past year

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This last year has been one wild ride.

At Guilford, we’ve experienced all kinds of changes in the 2016-2017 academic year. There have been several adjustments to the curriculum, and we have begun to implement the Speak Up! initiative. We purchased the East Apartments and made several hiring decisions.

Though all of these changes have been important, some of the most important changes have nothing to do with housing or academic initiatives.

Last year, Associate Professor of English Diya Abdo responded to the Syrian refugee crisis with Every Campus a Refuge. The program aims to put at least one refugee or refugee family on participating campuses across the country and beyond.

As of now, Guilford has hosted five individuals or families from countries all over the world. The program is thriving and will continue to do so into next year as we continue to bring families here. Also, students are able to minor in ECAR for the first time.

However, as volunteers for the program graduate and leave for the summer, it is important for others to step up and make sure the program continues to be a success.

In the fall, Guilford hosted three Dialogues on Diversity and Inclusion, open conversations between the students, staff, faculty and other members of the Guilford community focused on practicing difficult dialogues.

Although those dialogues haven’t continued, there is an opportunity to bring them back and continue to talk about important topics in the coming year with the entire community.

Also in the fall, Integrity for Guilford, a student organization dedicated to making sure Guilford lives up to its core values, opened its previously closed doors to the whole community, giving students a place to talk about social justice issues on campus and think about how we can continue to make Guilford a better place.

In hiring news, Guilford has finally allowed the Bonner Center for Community Service and Learning to hire a coordinator for the program.

Kristina Snader, the last coordinator, left in October 2014, and Guilford had not allowed the Bonner Center to fill the position until a few weeks ago. Hopefully, this indicates that the College understands that the Bonner Center is essential in living out our core values as a community.

This year, Guilford hosted several new events. The TEDx event, organized primarily by seniors Connor Huntwork and Yves Dusenge, allowed Guilford professors, students and alumni as well as others to share and exchange ideas.

Guilford also had the opportunity to host the annual Deaf Women of Color conference in the spring. The conference started in 2005 as a way to create a space for deaf women of color to meet regularly and empower each other.

In many ways, parts of Guilford have continued to embrace social justice as it always has. Several members of the Guilford community were able to participate in the Understanding Racism Workshop, the Bayard Rustin Symposium and other events that promote diversity and inclusivity.

Many clubs and organizations did the same. Hispanos Unidos de Guilford hosted National Farmworkers Awareness week and the Black Student Union hosted The Element, an event showcasing student talent. Both of these events happen annually.

This does not mean Guilford is without flaws. This semester, Integrity helped organize a protest concerning Public Safety after a trans student of color was assaulted on campus.

After P-Safe mishandled the case, students rallied outside of Founders Hall to demand changes to the department.

Going into next year, this incident reminds us to keep campus departments accountable to the Guilford community. P-Safe and other departments on campus are here, above all else, to keep us safe.

Additionally, it reminds us to look into who we are hiring on campus. Recently, we hired Vice President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean Frank Boyd after several open forums with different candidates. A similar process with P-Safe would allow us to get to know the candidates before they become a part of our community.

Although I will be graduating in a few weeks, I look forward to seeing how the events of this year impact the 2017-2018 school year. It is important to build on what is happening now rather than move on from it. In this way, we can make Guilford a better place to learn and grow together.

Guilford isn’t perfect. But we criticize it and try new things because we think it has so much potential.