Pittsburgh College’s Decision to Drop Its Office of Equity and Inclusion Hits Students Hard

“It's not true.” This was certainly the reaction of many after hearing the news. Point Park University is doing the impossible. Whatever the motive, the decision is likely to be culturally rejected.

On March 7, the privately owned Pittsburgh college announced the closure of its Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI). After the Spring 2022 academic year, the OEI is following in the unfortunate forked steps of that bird called the dodo. According to the school's news outlet, The Globe, Student Government Association (SGA) President Dennis McDermott wasn't a fan of the closing. In fact, he plans to fight the closure with “everything in [his] power.”

In an interview with The Globe, McDermott said that SGA's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Chair Eli Bagaporo advised members of the Executive Cabinet on Friday, February 25, of the fact that the office was to be “disbanded” before the start of the fall 2022 semester.

“I'm going to do everything in my power in my last semester here as president to make sure this doesn't happen,” McDermott declared. “And we accomplished some big things last year, and I can't make any promises, but if I have any say in it, it's going to stay exactly how it is.”

The official mission of the OEI is described in this manner: Intentionally promote the development of equity inclusiveness, diversity, and equity through raising awareness and using strategies and tools that shift attitudes and align everyone in the campus community to create an environment that values acceptance, appreciation, and acceptance for all students at every level within the organization.

Without an official desk, the myriad participants are likely to be asking themselves how a campus with a diverse population will survive. Many would surely think it hard to believe that they haven’t heard that once upon a time, there was no concept of “diversity, equity and inclusion”; it wasn’t even a thing. There was no one who knew about it, and nobody wanted it.

In that mysterious realm, there wasn't the notion of “identity.” The individual wasn't bound to an existential crisis that could only be resolved with the support of other people. People had the right to see their peers in any way they wanted. Also, being “seen” merely confirmed one's inability to be invisible. Girls and guys awoke each day and concentrated on their work, with no concern about who saw them or who did not. There was no group for “identity,” no “marginalization,” no “personal truth.”

Within that realm of magic was the idea of school. It was a space where students were at their desks while their teachers delivered dry information on the subjects of their studies. There was no talk about racial discrimination; there was no emphasis on oppression. There was no promotion of the personal lives of teachers and no encouragement of students' perceptions of inclusiveness. Speech was not a problem, and everyone felt “safe.” Students were treated as “equals”–meaning that every rule and standard was applied equally to everyone.

The most fascinating thing is that the entire world was spun in the same way. The work was done, education was achieved, and nobody ever “harmed” or “microaggressed” until it became dangerous. Those days are over. Nowadays, it's assumed the right things cannot happen without the existence of a diversity, equity, and inclusion mechanism overseeing everything.

So, it’s likely the Office of Equity and Inclusion, established just prior to the pandemic, will soon be renewed. Until that time comes, other DEI departments will be doing their share of the work. The team that is responsible for diversity training in equity and inclusion will move over to the Center for Inclusive Excellence, including the assistant director for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Training, Michael Thornhill, according to the managing director of University Marketing and Public Relations, Lou Corsaro. “None of the work [the] OEI does is being eliminated; rather, the various components of the office would shift to other areas of the University where they will find more support and be able to focus more directly on their missions,” Corsaro explained. “Final plans are still being developed, and University leadership continues to meet with various groups for input.”

SGA President McDermott knows the answer: “I think you could ask any [member] of my student government what it means to them to have an office at our university, specifically dedicated to the issues of which it is titled–equity and inclusion–[it] is just a sign of a progressive institution that people want to go to. And people feel proud to be part of an institution that cares that much to dedicate [this] entire group of people towards solving issues regarding that.”

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