We must be open to all to be truly inclusive
By Thunderword Staff
If Highline is going to celebrate diversity, we need to be including everyone's voices.
On Thursday, May 30, Phi Theta Kappa and Justice Scholars Society of Change presented Decarceration Day. The event fea- tured a variety of lectures and workshops highlighting social justice issues with incarceration, prisons, detention centers, and immigration policy. Overall, the event was well attended and supported by the campus community.
But not everyone chose to support the event. Some dis- agreed with the event's goals and voiced concerns about formerly incarcerated persons on campus, disagreeing with the group's goal of expanding their rights. These concerns even came to warrant a campus-wide email from President Dr. John Mosby, who asked the event be respected by those who disagree.
Despite Dr. Mosby's good intent with his message, it should not have been needed in the first place, as the campus should have already been learning from this community.
Decarceration Day was similar to other diversity eventsâ€¨on campus. Informing about the issues faced by a minority groups, this event should have been treated with the same re- spect as other minorities like Globalfest or Highline Welcomes the World.
Similarly, formerly incarcerated persons' pasts should not be the main source of judgment on them as they share their expe- riences. These are people who have paid their debt to society, but since that time and experience is not their only defining aspect, they should be viewed no differently than any other student on campus.
Because the college's student body reflects the surrounding region, the campus community includes those who have paid a debt to society, and has done so for many years. Just as the local communities have to come to terms with all of their res- idents, the Highline community needs to accept that formerly incarcerated persons are on campus and have a right to be here.
Part of their acceptance into this inclusive community is their right to share their experiences and goals. They pay their tuition and do their work like the rest of us, and they deserve to have their voices heard, too.
Decarceration Day is one iteration of this right. Even if you don't agree with the event's agenda, it still is a part of the cam- pus community's experience and should be shared.
Highline loves to boast about its diversity, being listed as the fifth most diverse college in the country. If we are going to cel- ebrate diversity, we don't get to pick and choose which groups get a voice on campus. Everyone has the right to speak out and educate, including formerly incarcerated persons.