Student-driven equity summit takes on justice and inclusion

October 22, 2020

Spider Pride

University of Richmond students are engaged members of the Spider community who advocate for changes that meet the needs of the student body. A recent example is the University’s first Equity Summit that brought together more than 450 students, faculty, staff, and alumni on topics of inclusivity.

The event was supposed to be held in April following an act of racist graffiti in residence halls last January, but was postponed because of COVID-19 and held virtually instead on Sept. 29 and Oct. 1. Senior Hijab Fatima and junior Tommy Na organized the summit with help from political science professor Monti Datta, and the group recruited discussion leaders and determined specific session topics. 

“I’m a big believer in Tommy and Hijab, who led the Equity Summit, as well as [recent alum] Lina Tori Jan, who suggested the idea last spring,” Datta said.

The students attended facilitator training and then led weekly student leader and general body meetings over Zoom. 

“Moving the summit from an in-person model to a virtual platform was definitely very challenging as we only had three months to put everything together,” Fatima said. “This included choosing the sessions, reaching out to potential facilitators and the administration to get their support as well as looping in numerous student organizations and student development bodies as allies.”

Six sessions were held coving topics such as LGBTQIA+, xenophobia, violence prevention, antisemitism, white privilege, and Africana studies.

“Every week we were sitting with some of the best student leaders UR has to offer where we could together pave our way to the ultimate goal: creating a brave place on-campus,” Fatima said. “This has also been a humbling moment for us, because we realize we have so much farther to go in helping the UR community dive into much-needed but difficult conversations in the realm of racial and social justice.”

The group wanted to take action on inclusivity efforts on campus, Fatima said, and normalize talking about those efforts among students. She said the plan is for the Equity Summit to become a yearly tradition designed to inspire and empower the community.

More information about racial justice events on campus can be found on Common Ground’s website.