Hey friends! One more post on diversity issues and progress towards inclusion at Hitotsubashi ICS. You may recall the post I made a little while ago about the bigotry I witnessed and experienced during my time as a student. Here’s what happened after that post went up:
– One of my classmates posted a link on our class’s private Facebook page, with a note along the lines of how I should be ashamed of myself for marketing the school so poorly.
– Several classmates (all notably straight, cisgender, male, and of the dominant ethnic group from their respective countries, therefore not personally subject to, in their homes, any of the oppression I talked about – hmmm) chimed in to agree that I was terrible.
– I received an email from a professor asking me to talk to him about my post.
Two of those things are gross and horrible, and pretty much illustrate what I was talking about: as a school community, we found it worse to protest bigotry and harassment than to actually engage in bigotry and harassment. It was acceptable to drive me out of a space I was a part of, to try to shame me for having an experience I thought was not OK and expressing that it was not OK. Nobody had anything to say about, say, racism not being okay, or it being shameful that racism was an issue in our community, and that it was terrible marketing that racism existed in and was expressed by members of our community, or that we should really do something to fix that.
The email I got from my professor, however, was good! During my time as a student I hadn’t sat down and talked with any authority figures in detail about all the stuff that I had witnessed or that had personally happened to me, because the one or two times I brought things up to test the waters, the vibe was either so negative or so apathetic I was scared off. Anyone who has been in this situation knows what I’m talking about: even if the people in positions of power don’t appear blatantly untrustworthy, or themselves express overtly problematic opinions, it’s a risk to approach them. There are consequences to speaking up, and at the time there was way too much risk and way too little reward for me to say anything. So I kept my head down and stayed safe.
After my professor reached out to me, though, asking me directly for clarification on what I’d talked about and what I’d experienced, that door was open, and I shared in detail what had happened to me and what I’d seen over my two years. I named names, which was refreshing, because the anonymity of those who had harassed me was in part why I think they were allowed to continue to be active parts of the school community. I doubt these people will ever be punished in any way, but I don’t especially care – I just care that someone in a position of power now knows who they are, so new students will hopefully never have to deal with known racists, misogynists, and bullies.
His inviting me to talk to him also allowed me to discuss in more depth the school’s ongoing efforts to improve diversity and inclusion. There seem to be a lot of things in the works, the positive effects of which I hope you current and incoming students will see (or are already seeing).
Most notable to me was that the school is in talks with a professional diversity trainer who I’ve personally worked with and really admire. She lectures internationally and is hired by huge multinationals to train their staff. I think she has the potential to help a lot, and also help moderate and maintain a safe space for discussions about diversity issues that was lacking before.
Going forward, I hope you incoming students, many of you who have read my post, spoken to me, and decided to apply to and attend ICS, will let others know how it’s going and feel safe to speak to the administration about any issues that might arise.
As an outsider, or at least no longer a student, what will be most demonstrative to me of ICS’s progress is how much I’m welcome in the community in the future. I’m not really trying to get into the whole diversity and inclusion initiative – that’s stressful as heck, and better left to the hired professionals. But I have worked with the ICS faculty and administration on a lot of projects, including writing for their website, helping with the fantastic new Japanese culture class, and being a part of orientation week so you new kids know how health care works and where to get a cellphone. I’d love to continue to be a part of that, and in all honestly, I think I will. One blog post speaking honestly about my experiences doesn’t transform me from “one of our best students ever” (direct quote from another professor) to “evil vindictive harpy bitch” (not a quote). If ICS is an institution really dedicated to owning up to its diversity and inclusion issues, and improving them – and I think it is – then I look forward to congratulating the newest incoming class in person this summer.
And, possibly, explaining how you can pay your health care bill at the convenience store.
Take care everybody. As with the last post about harassment, comments are off to avoid, well, harassment. Prospective and incoming students are always welcome to contact me directly with questions.