Faculty aims to push diversity

Written By Mick Stinelli, Co-A&E Editor

Stanley Denton described the experience of going into an elementary school with no black male teachers.

“This one little white boy came running up to me. He was the first person to greet me,” Denton said. “‘Hi, what’s your name?’ And I told him. He said, ‘Are you going to be our custodian?’”

When Denton explained he was there to observe teachers, the boy seemed surprised, but altogether okay with the situation.

“He had never seen a black male in his building doing anything other than being a custodian.”

Denton, now an associate professor of education at Point Park University, is a member of the burgeoning Diversity and Inclusion Planning Committee. He described this story as an example of the importance of black men in education. Diversity among staff is something that the committee is planning on addressing.

Jonas Prida, an assistant provost at Point Park, is the director of the university’s Center for Inclusive Excellence.

“Universities and colleges have a responsibility toward offering equity-based education,” Prida said in an interview in his office. “We, historically, have kind of been part of the problem, so now it’s our opportunity to be part of the solution.”

Prida said a diversity committee was started because, simply, “it was just about time to have one.” He said Point Park is a diverse community with students of color, LGBT students and a wide variety of experiences. But, he says, there’s nothing happening at an administrative level to make sure that these students have a voice.

When it comes to making a difference, Prida says the committee has a few plans in mind. By the end of summer, the committee will come together with ideas to push forward with.

“One of those is about hiring,” Prida described. “In that Point Park, as an institution, needs to do a better job at hiring faculty and staff that reflect our student pool.”

Prida said this can be changed by advertising in different journals or undergoing training that focuses on bias in Point Park’s hiring policies. Other ideas include inclusive speech codes and a variety of teaching styles.

Prida said diversity is important to him because it helps students. Having different kinds of people working at an educational institution helps “more students learn more.”

Meggan Lloyd, a Ph.D. student in the community engagement program, was approached by Prida to join the committee. She is a part of the subcommittee that is looking into administering a campus climate survey to Point Park. The survey would aim to gauge how students feel about a variety of topics related to the campus.

Lloyd described her motivation for encouraging diversity and inclusion as happening in “reverse,” after growing up in a predominately white city and living in Mexico for a month during her freshman year of college.

“That juxtaposition, for me, was huge,” Lloyd said. “That experience really shaped my narrative going forward, because I realized how naïve I was in a lot of ways, and [I] really had an appreciation for the beauty of that community.”

Lloyd said students experiencing different perspectives forms a more well-rounded individual.

When it comes to seeing the effects of diversity in the classroom, Denton has first-hand experiences. He says that, as a student in the elementary school where his father was principle, his father made sure his passion for education was visible to the younger Denton. While the rest of the family was spending Sundays at home, Denton was back at school with his father.

“I’d sit down there in his office,” Denton explained in an interview. “He would explain a lot of things associated with his job. Maybe he had a vision, I don’t know, that I would one day be in education. Maybe it was just luck; I doubt it.”

As a professor of education, Denton says that his classes are mostly made up of female students. Few of his students are male and few of these men, he emphasizes, are black.

“Our schools benefit from classes where children can see males and females, Asians, Hispanics, white and black,” he says.