Learning out Loud at Laurier

The new director of the Diversity and Equity Office on where Laurier needs to go with respect to acceptance and learning

It was not long ago that I was invited to watch a talk given by Joe Ehrmann at Wilfrid Laurier University. As part of the #Not My Laurier campaign to end gendered violence, Mr. Erhmann was invited to speak to a room filled with Laurier’s student athletes.

He spoke of normalized and highly problematic visions of “masculinity” and “femininity.” He challenged the audience to define their sense of “being a man” and “being a woman” by their own standards.

And when he opened the floor to audience questions, it was clear that the difficulty of making his challenge a reality was very real: “How do you make it safe for change?” a member of the audience asked.

Mr. Erhmann took a moment before he responded, and it was during that brief pause that I realized why we at the Diversity and Equity Office are doing what we do out loud, in public forums, for all to hear.

There is hope in believing that if we explore and redefine “safe spaces” that we might learn to exist in the discomfort that is required when real change happens.

So how do we make it safe for change to happen? I have spent many years advocating for the importance of making our discussions about diversity, equity and social inclusion explicit.

I believe strongly that without explicit dialogue – without creating forums to have our hard conversations in public – nothing will ever change.

We must also recognize something else: by Learning Out Loud with the DEO, we cannot guarantee “safety” if safety means being comfortable.

I have learned that being challenged to justify our beliefs to our selves or to others is not always an easy road to travel.

But by Learning Out Loud with the DEO we can guarantee change, because change comes in those moments when we are provided with an opportunity to question our beliefs.

Over the course of next school year, the DEO will lead the Laurier campuses in re-thinking structural norms.

It will facilitate conversations with faculty, staff and students in order to delve into a deeper dialogue about what is making Laurier and its community tick.

With monthly updates on interesting topics and challenging ideas, we hope that you will want to join in the conversation.

I must be honest – sometimes the conversations will feel uncomfortable. But the possibility of creating a space for authentic dialogue is a benefit that cannot be denied.

And it is my hope that by initiating these dialogues, over time, we will co-create a more inviting space for challenging conversations; the kind that makes change happen.

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