On Feb. 1, 2021, the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah kicked off their third annual Eccles Inclusion week, shifting this year’s lectures into a virtual format. The series will continue through Feb. 5 and feature a diverse array of speakers from business, academic and activist backgrounds.
This series of 12 different seminars on diversity, equity and inclusion may seem familiar to students at Westminster College, as Westminster has invited speakers to campus every academic year since 2000-01 for the Bastian Foundation Diversity Lecture Series. Like the Bastian Foundation lectures, the events hosted by the Eccles School are open to the public.
The Eccles Inclusion Week at the U began in 2018 and has aimed to amplify marginalized voices, reach out to students of color on the U campus and broaden the worldviews of the Eccles community. The Eccles Office for Student Inclusion works with many other offices at the school each to put together each year’s series of lectures.
Every year, the Office hopes to arrange for speakers and topics that are relevant to student concerns and interests, according to Michelle Conley, the refugee program manager within the Office for Student Inclusion.
Conley said many students contacted the office this year, seeking ways they could personally engage in their communities amid the Black Lives Matter protests of summer 2020.
“This year we were certainly cognizant with the Black Lives Matter movement from last summer,” Conley said. “That played a pretty big role in our planning this year, so you’ll notice that we have a lot of sessions that focus more on that, that we haven’t really done in previous years.”
Among the speakers this year were Tiffany Rachelle Stewart and Tyler Rivenbark, co-creators of “The Listening,” a webinar series geared toward white allies; and Dr. Erin Castro, who is leading a two-part discussion on the book “Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America” by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. Castro is an associate professor of higher education at the U, as well as the director and co-founder of the Utah Prison Education Project.
“Even in my most angry phases — and I have them — I know that education is our only way out of this,” Castro said, speaking of the need for diversity education in the midst of the current political climate in the United States, specifically citing the Jan. 7 pro-Trump riots at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
Castro underscored the necessity of “teaching people to think differently, helping people on their journeys of questioning and unlearning” and states that it is incumbent upon colleges and universities to conduct that work as educators.
“Without it, what are we left to do?” Castro asked. “Perpetuate the status quo? I’m not a fan of that.”