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University of Dayton faculty, students and alumni challenge social injustice through virtual symposium on race

By Allison Brace '22

Julius Amin, professor of history and University of Dayton Alumni Chair in Humanities, has continually worked toward raising awareness of the need to eradicate racism within the campus community. Working with a planning committee, he will host the fourth annual Global Voices symposium, March 1-4, with this year’s focus on race relations on the University campus.

The 2021 symposium will be held virtually and include student, faculty and alumni speakers. Shannen Dee Williams, assistant professor of history at Villanova University and distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians will provide the keynote address - Why Black Catholic History Matters - at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 3.

“Dr. Williams asks important questions on the Church in regards to the topic of race,” Amin said. “She will ask the valuable questions which leave us with thoughts about the topic that we will continue to wrestle with even after the speech is over.”

The symposium will include six panel discussions in addition to the keynote address, the first of which starts at 3 p.m. Monday, March 1. The event is designed to hear the encounters of racism from real people and address what the campus community is doing to challenge the issue.

Each panel is challenged to make recommendations for the University to turn its message of inclusivity into reality.

“The University is not static in the issues of race and we want to see what changes have taken place over time,” Amin said. “Some questions that we want to ask our alumni include what their experiences were like and what are their comments and suggestions.”

The symposium planning committee also has acted as a liaison between faculty and students. Through these connections, more students have had the opportunity to do research on the topic of race and some will present their work at the symposium. The committee members included Merida Allen, Lawrence Burnley, Denise James, Ashleigh Lawrence-Sanders, Tom Morgan and Joel Pruce.

The symposium hopes to utilize varying perspectives and stories provided by students to answer the question of what it means to be black on campus. The student voices will address challenges, prospects and turning points, and conclude with recommendations for both short- and long-term actions to create an anti-racist campus culture.

Amin wants to raise awareness about the difficult conversations inherently present around the history of racism in America. By talking with alumni, the symposium will showcase how ideas around racism have changed through the years.

The Alumni Voices portion of the symposium will feature an interactive panel of dedicated alumni and center on the narratives of black alumni through a dialogue on race.

“When people talk about the University of Dayton, we want students to say ‘our’ university,” Amin said. “We want people to claim ownership of the University.”

University faculty and staff also will have the opportunity to share their perspectives by addressing peak and low moments and how they navigated different situations. They will conclude with and recommendations on how to make the University truly “anti-racist.”

Although the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have moved the four-day event to an online format, Amin is hopeful the convenience and accessibility of being online will encourage attendance by more people from the UD and Dayton communities.

“We are just looking for ways to do the best we can with the best we have,” Amin said. “I can guarantee that each session will be impactful in some way.”

The Global Voices symposium is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information, including the schedule of events and registration links, visit the Global Voices website.

Photo at top: Keynote speaker Shannen Dee Williams.

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