Semester in review: worthy stories deserve second look

At issue: Looking back on a semester of important discourse and change.

Our take: Students should recognize and remember the on-campus news.

Emerson College is in the midst of some major transformations. From the facade facelift to the restructuring of resources for cultural competency, mental health, and Title IX investigations, this school is making significant strides.

Our block on Boylston has changed—and still is changing—its appearance considerably this semester, with demolition and construction in the alley for the new dorm, and the Colonial Theatre shutting its doors. Both of these will arguably be beneficial for the college in the future, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t growing pains. Students are still mourning the loss of the social hub Sweetwater Tavern, and big names in theater from across the country have weighed in on the Colonial’s closing and possible repurposing. With the Little Building renovation beginning after the Boylston Place residence hall is complete in 2017, our campus won’t have a reprieve from construction any time soon.

The college’s structure also evolved, with new hires and majors, and existing programs at the school were commended on a national stage. Emerson hired Pamela Ring as the new full-time Title IX Investigator, a position in which she’ll aid students in navigating the college’s resources, explain investigation processes, and help find support for survivors. The college also appointed Pamela White as its first full-time dedicated Associate Vice President and Title IX & Clery Act Coordinator. Both women have made plans to advance current policies and bolster much needed change and support for students. The college is still looking to fill the position for the new Vice President and Dean of Campus Life. We’ve also seen new majors emerge, including a comedy major and business major, and existing programs received notable rankings. Emerson was named best overall journalism bachelor’s program of the year in a list published by USA Today based on graduate pay, value, and focused major. For the third time, the college snagged the title of most LGBTQ-friendly institution for higher education by The Princeton Review.

During a passionate rally in the spring, several hundred Emerson students demanded campuswide cultural competency and sensitivity training. Sharing stories of whitewashed curriculums and the persistence of dated, monolithic ideas of diversity, student protestors asked that the college do better in creating inclusive learning spaces. This semester gave Emerson’s faculty and administration the opportunity to address student demands and make good on their promises to achieve a more equitable and socially conscious academic environment: there’s the implementation of the bias response program, with which students, faculty, and staff can report microaggressions and Title IX concerns, and a faculty committee to work on implementing cultural competency training for our school’s professors. In contrast to student protests at Mizzou, Yale, and other schools around the nation, students aren’t the loudest or only voices advocating for reform; our allies include high-ranking administrators, too.

This has also been a semester of great progress for mental health advocates on campus. The year opened with much-needed changes made to the mental health policy in the student handbook. The counseling center also implemented a 24-hour crisis hotline that connects students to therapists in real time. Emerson then participated in Fresh Check Day, a nationwide event that brings attention to mental health resources on college campuses. Our own chapter of the mental health education and advocacy organization Active Minds was recognized at the national conference in California, winning for “Most Innovative Programming” and its president being named “Student Leader of the Year.” These developments are incredibly important, especially in the wake of discomforting events such as those that occurred in Mizzou, Paris, and San Bernardino this semester. Students need to know that the Emerson community is well-equipped to provide support and assistance.

This semester has seen emboldened movements and sincere attempts to push Emerson into a direction that more accurately adheres to its philosophy of bringing innovation to communication and the arts. With the close of the semester rapidly approaching, and the philosophy of slacktivism threatening to leave us with sententious, empty calls-to-action, we must continue to actively engage within our community to seek the change we need most.