Former Peer Educator reflects on time in the Office of Equity and Inclusion

Written By August Stephens, Opinions Editor

Do you ever go to discuss a topic at length which you have not visited in-person in months, but it still lives in your head so you realize just how much its prescience is actually chewing away at your brain? You sit back in the comfiest chair you can find while attempting for your words to come off with such clarity it’s like a spoken-word poem came to life. That is how I feel right now, looking back at my time as a Peer Educator.


I am aware of the events that took place in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the fall but especially as the Spring semester droned on. Well, as much as I was able to be at that time. Through faults of no one’s own, most information was spread through the grapevine in the office, much to the chagrin of the university. 


As a Peer Educator, our duties were originally to learn, memorize, and present PowerPoints on diversity, allyship, bystander awareness, and later sexual violence. I received two trainings from Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, and also journaled two times every week while reading Grandmother’s Hands, an absolutely soul-wrenching novel. It was not only about healing your generational trauma, but being able to be in spaces and teach others about the trauma in their own bodies as well. 


Originally I did not think this was worth the complaint, but I would like to emphasize that we were making nearly one hundred dollars a month to heave ourselves into a new place of being. To note, I am not someone who cares about money. However, we are college students who made less than people who work in a variety of offices for a work study around campus. 


At one point near the end of last semester we were told the Peer Educator position may no longer be available. All of us were also told not to worry and that our space in the office would remain the same. 


Now, the program was not perfect. The Peer Educator role in the office was a new one, which was designed to be able to engage in meaningful conversations in a safe way. I did not, and do not, expect it to be perfect. That does not mean that the Point Park University staff should have handled the situation of wanting to completely divide the office how they did, whatsoever. 


There are thousands of universities with Offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion nationally. The President of the University should have communicated his new intentions with the student body as soon as they were discussed privately. There is not any reason why the news of students’ workspace being removed should be leaked to the newspaper where the same student dedicates hours too every week. 


In the Fall Semester ahead, none of the prior Peer Educators have been individually contacted to see if they would like to return. I do believe there should have been a prioritization of the former Peer Educators abilities to work in the Center for Inclusive Excellence before the formal announcement of the Inclusive Student Leadership Association. 


Under absolutely no circumstances should I nor fellow students be placed under the stress that we were because the transition of a brand new office was a work in progress. We all deserve the right to be secure in our personal and professional lives.