Women & Lasallian Mission Month

April marks the annual campus-wide celebration entitled “Mission Month” that includes over seventy campus-wide events and giveaways. In case you live under a rock, Manhattan College is a Lasallian institution, and in fact you see the reminder of it every day. Lasallian schools are distinguished by a five-point star that symbolizes each of the Lasallian core values as follows: respect for the poor, and social justice; faith in the presence of God; respect for all persons; inclusive community; and quality education. Our logo, commonly found wherever you turn your head, includes this star.

Recently, I interviewed our very own Dr. Roksana Badruddoja of the Sociology Department and Women’s & Gender Studies Program. She is currently teaching “Race & Resistance” and “Sex & Violence” and co-teaching the Senior Seminar in Sociology. Dr. Badruddoja and I spoke on how these values not only correlated with our current campus climate, but impacted the lives of the women on campus. The following are excerpts from our Q&A. I hope that these excerpts not only leave you with food for thought, but also a more critical look at what it means to be respectful and responsible on campus.

As somebody involved in WAGS, what was your reaction to the sexual harassment awareness event on campus last semester and MC's push towards that topic in the past year?

“While the campus-wide training in Fall 2014 may not have been entirely what we were expecting as part of the MC community, it is indeed a step in the right direction in bringing awareness to sexual assault and its prevention on college campuses. However, it is simply not enough. The first issue is that our students - and I suspect this to be the case across the nation - do not clearly understand what sexual assault is nor do they understand the nature of sexual assault and the circumstances - e.g. the role of alcohol and other intoxicants and the role of Greek system and the administrations that support them - that may create a situation that fosters sexual assault. I of course implicate not only the entire MC community here, but also our nation. Next, students do not have a clear understanding of consent. Many continue to argue that consent can be indicated through body language and this is simply not true. I support the notion of radical consent here which requires verbal agreement from each party involved for each sexual action pursued beginning from handholding to kissing and so on. Third, like most academic institutions, MC's policies around sexual assault are based on the standard legalistic approach which dehumanizes those who have experienced sexual assault…[C]ourses like “Sex & Violence” need to be mandatory; students need to know that sexual assault does not happen out of the blue and the perpetrator is often not jumping out of a bush or from a dark alley, that there is a strategy involved when sexual assault takes place on college campuses and the institutions are themselves implicated in this also!”

What are your views on the racial climate of this college?

The Racial Justice Teach-In and the panel on Condemning Blackness are exactly what this campus needs…However, our efforts must go beyond programming because (white) students continue to use the "N" word on campus and when interrogated respond with, "why can black people use it and I can't?". This question is deeply problematic and troublesome. The question itself is embedded in the white imagination and white privilege and white supremacy. I will speak for myself here. I am not o.k. with anybody using this word. I will also argue that the "N" word does not come from a space of color or the black imagination. It comes from the white space, and, hence, I do not think people of color can re-appropriate this word because we did not create this word of hate. Finally, it does matter who is doing the labeling and categorizing. Whites have historically constructed the popular cultural imaginations of people of color in this country!”

Can you share a few words as to why representation of cultures and groups matter on campus?

It is abundantly clear that we are not in a post-racial (and post-sexist) society. It is hard to believe with Barack Obama (and Hillary Clinton) in our public imagination but the reality is that people of color (and women) historically have not fared well in this country and this is still true in the present moment. Just because interpersonal racism may be rare in certain spaces and time, [it does not mean we must ignore it]…We must continue to uncover the systems of domination and oppression in this country that serve to marginalize "Others." Here, the representations that you speak of go beyond having Diwali and Día de Muertos on college campuses. There is much more at stake here about how people of color are represented in this country…”

For closing thoughts, how do you think Manhattan College can truly be an inclusive space for all cultures, genders and sexualities present?

“As I have mentioned before…on-going programming around race, class, sex, gender, sexuality, ableism, etc. is a logical first step but [it] is not enough. “Multiculturalism" events are not enough… I often see [students] walking out of racially charged faculty talks because they are uncomfortable… Our campus - along with other campuses across the nation - continue to be inundated with cultural imaginations and language of "whore," "fag," and "N." This is simply unacceptable! What we need is more training around the issues at hand. [They must become] part of our student orientation and part of our core curriculum.”