Letter: We must walk the walk

Britt Jungck

After watching the student town hall presentation (recording) regarding Iowa State’s new strategic plan, I was not surprised when the audience rated “To be the university that cultivates a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where students, faculty and staff flourish,” as, currently, the least successful goal of our institution.

Although we have policies, procedures and course titles dedicated to the concept of equity and affirming identities, we are not universally adopting these practices into our everyday lives on this campus. Hostility, impatience, judgment and silence are all far more frequent than advocacy and activism in our classrooms, hiring decisions and interactions with each other as human beings. 

As Bettina L. Love (2021) states in her article, “How to Make Anti-Racism More Than a Performance,” “What good is anti-racist curriculum that does not address racism right under its nose?”

There appear to be two camps on our campus. One believes equity, inclusion and affirming identities come before everything we do. The other believes in holding tight to tradition at all costs. 

I have only been a student at Iowa State for seven months, and in that time, I have felt a palpable tension between the goals we profess as an institution and the actions we allow to continue. In my field, education, this tension is brewing to the point where it is threatening to destroy an entire industry. As someone who has been a teacher or instructor for nearly twenty years, I can attest that our approaches and actions say far more than our content and CVs can cover.

Recently, I was riding the bus when two male students decided to take photos of a female student on the bus, snicker and post it on their Snapchat. 

I confronted them about how the action was disrespectful at best and predatory at worst. 

Their response?

“Shut up, (insert homophobic slur).”

This was just another Tuesday.

More concerning are the microaggressions spoken or implied in classrooms and facilities around campus. I recently saw a neon sign in State Gym that says “FATe,” apparently trying to judge or police larger bodies to motivate us while we workout. I have been told this has been in place for years. 

Two weeks ago, I walked behind two students complaining about an internship opportunity they’d had over spring break in an urban (for Iowa) setting and criticizing the people they had met in a racially charged and classist manner. 

We can’t claim “To be the university that cultivates a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment where students, faculty and staff flourish,” until we realize that everything we say and do matters. Everything we say in each meeting matters. Every harm we witness in silence matters. The way we treat advocates on our campus matters.

We should all be centering this concern for equity in our daily teaching, daily learning, daily discourse and reimagining our departments in this time of change and uncertainty. 

Or this strategic goal will never be realized.

Britt Jungck is a graduate student in education.