Senate discusses diversity spaces, Unity Center and Spiritual Life

BY ANNA KANE ’20

At Senate on Tuesday, Oct. 31, Assistant Dean of Students Latrina Denson and Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life Annette McDermott presented on the work of both departments to encourage diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus. 

These initiatives include the cultural center homecoming events, Be Well initiatives for students of color and online resource pages for DACA, first-generation and LGBTQ students. There will also be opportunities for students to receive academic credit for Race and Racism in the United States workshops. 

The Unity Center in Blanchard, located on the second floor, will soon have doors and eventually serve as a meeting space for student organizations. Denson and McDermott have tentatively scheduled an inaugural event for Nov. 16. 

According to the Center’s mission statement, co-written by Denson and McDermott, “We envision the Unity Center to be a space for those who gather to feel comfortable and sufficiently empowered to explore questions like: ‘who I am, who do I want to be, and who do others think I am, and want me to be?’ It is our hope that the Unity Center will allow all those who enter to discover and develop the confidence and skills to share their stories and reciprocally to appreciate the stories and experiences of all those who make up our diverse community.”

“Can you talk a little bit about what the Unity Center is not?” Chair of Halls Franny Eremeeva ’20 asked at Senate. 

Denson responded that the room is not to be used as a lunch or study space, instead it will be a space for  events, dialogues, organic conversations among students, and interfaith lunches.

“It will be kind of like a cultural center that is centralized 

and for multiple people and groups to engage in,” Denson said. 

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at Mount Holyoke strives to be an interfaith model that celebrates religious pluralism and facilitates dialogue.

People of all different faiths attend Mount Holyoke, said McDermott.  There are eight different groups represented by nine chaplains and advisors to best support students religiously and spiritually. 

“It’s really about wanting you to bring all of yourself to campus. You’re not working with your full self if you can’t bring your reflective self to this campus,” she said.  

McDermott encouraged students to attend events or the interfaith lunches. “Our hope is that you feel confident in who you are spiritually so you can engage with someone else,” she said.

Irina Ronina ’20, Pearsons Hall senator, said that having an office dedicated to spiritual life is a “valuable aspect of our campus. It’s very important for all of us to learn about each other’s religions, connect with each other and be able to facilitate dialogue with one another,” especially during events like interfaith lunches. 

Ronina said that she never attends cultural center events or interfaith lunches, but will be more likely to go in the future now that she has a better understanding of the work they are doing.

Mount Holyoke News

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