On Thursday, Nov. 12 the biannual Presidential Town Hall Meeting housed a conversation between students and faculty in the Upper Turner Campus Center concerning the topic of diversity on campus.
“Our office doors are open and we are willing to come to the table of conversation,” Franson said.
A panel of faculty and staff addressed pre-submitted questions by students, as well as live questions from the audience. The panel also explained the recent actions the university has taken as well as what is planned for the university in the near future.
The panel was headed by President Jon Wallace, Vice Provost for Faculty Support and Special Assistant to the President Kimberly B.W. Denu, President and CEO of Telacu Industries and Board of Trustees member Michael Lizarraga and Dean of Students and Senior Vice President for Student Life Terry Franson.
The night revolved around questions regarding the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of Azusa Pacific. Whether concerning diversity among the faculty and staff, curriculum, programs funded on campus or students, diversity remained at the forefront of the majority of questions asked by students.
The issue involving the Day of the Dead was later addressed in by the panel. Franson apologized for the way the situation was handled, but stood by the decision that was made to cancel the event explaining that it was a theological issue and not an ethnic issue.
“Among Latino Christians there is a division about Día De Los Muertos. For some it is about celebrating the dead but for others it’s about helping the dead to move on,” Lizarraga said. “For me personally, it is not the Aztec or pagan root, but the certain expression of it is not in line with the theological foundation of APU.”
Although some students were pleased to see the top administrators on campus confront thes issues in a public setting, some left feeling their questions were not directly answered.
“I do appreciate the intention of the town hall meetings, but I feel the purpose should be more about giving clear recognizable answers to student’s questions,” junior communication studies major Ashley Finley said.
Sophomore social work major Bianca Portal echoed Finley’s frustration.
“I felt the answers were very general to the specific questions. I hope in the future [the panel] comes more prepared with specific examples to make change,” Portal said. “Nothing is really being shown for it.”
Among those who presented a question to the panel was senior social work major and SGA Multicultural senator Dacia Taleni who disagreed with the manner in which the forum was presented. The organization of the meeting, having administration standing in front of the audience, created an upset in power differences that mirrored a student-teacher relationship. Taleni felt the forum would have been more effective if placed in a round table setting.
“I feel the Townhall meeting should be more open to conversation and present the concept of working together rather than working for you,” Telani said. “[The first] is more conducive to the community message.”
Taleni felt those who presented seemed out of touch with what is occuring on campus and placed minorities in a false light.
“The forum basically leaves minorities depicted as angry, alluding that they have to come and ask what’s wrong rather than have a conversation,” Taleni said, adding that the panel responded to her questions in an aggressive manner.
At the end of discussion, Wallace announced the university requires diversity training for all new faculty and staff and at least a full day during yearly training will be devoted to diversity training. This will be administered through “Imago Dei,” a diversity workshop that student leaders will also be required to take.
The panel stated they are available for further conversation.