PTK Honor Society is happy to welcome D’Andre Fisher, our new Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to North and caught an interview with him to find out more about his work on campus.
What life event was a catalyst in your decision to become an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion?
That’s a great question, I don’t know if it was specifically a life event but just my pure existence. As a self-identified African-American male in today’s society, I think you have no choice but to be in this work or do this work because you have to speak for so many voices that are unheard. Unfortunately, I don’t get the chance to take off being a male, or take off being black, or take off being someone who identifies with religious freedoms, or take off being someone who identifies with the LGBTQ + community. I don’t get to remove that on an everyday basis; I have to wear that every day. So this work for me is my life. It’s just my everyday, it’s just my pure existence in a room, me walking into a space where I can be the only one of that person in that space.
What is one of the most fulfilling aspects of your work?
Knowing that I’ve helped a student, a faculty, or a staff member who felt like they didn’t have a voice. Knowing that I’ve helped them really navigate through an experience, that they felt maybe unappreciated, they felt maybe harmed, or they felt like they did not have a voice or a seat at the table. That’s the most rewarding aspect, just seeing the liberation of so many communities.
Can you share with us a single action we could do in our day to make our community a safer and more respectful place?
I think so many times in Higher Ed institutions, we tend to forget that they’re educational spaces. We need to start educating ourselves on different communities, on different populations, because the notion of getting away with saying or doing things, with microaggressions, and it being “Oh, I didn’t know” - that’s unacceptable now. And it has been unacceptable and it’s unacceptable even more so now because we should educate ourselves on what it means to help and be an ally for a veteran. What it means to help and be an ally for a student with a disability. What does that look like? And you should educate yourself and not expect the population or the community to educate you.
How do you facilitate and promote discussions where everyone’s voice is heard respectfully?
The first step is to create a sense of belonging for everyone, to create a sense of “this space being really safe,” and most importantly to create a space where dialogue – respectful dialogue is the key – could happen. And how you do that is understanding and sit out in the front to say: “We will have different views, we will have different opinions, and that’s ok.” But how do we respectfully come to some type of halfway, medium, or some type of middle ground, where I can walk away and say “I heard you, I may not agree with you, but I heard you”?
Gender and identity have been strongly tied together for a long time, do you think we might be on our way towards a future where the two are completely separated, or do you think it’s impossible to have one without the other?
Social identity, whether that’s in gender, whether that’s in class, whether that’s mental health (we don’t talk about our mental health) – all of these are identities that people have to walk with every day. Like I said in the beginning, “I can’t take off one identity without being the other.” One identity may show itself as prevalent more in our lives, but we are who we are, we identify by how we identify. Whether that’s an identification that we have grown into, whether that’s an identification that we were born with, whatever that may be, or whether that’s an identity that we’ve educated ourselves more on – I think it is very, very important that we acknowledge that everybody has different identities. For us to try and put one identity against the other can be problematic in many ways.
Are there any exciting upcoming events or opportunities where students can learn more about equity, diversity, and inclusion that you can share with us?
We have the food bank that happens every Wednesday. We have multiple events that I hope that our office – the EDI office – is going to start promoting and letting the campus know about more and more on how to get involved and how to make sure that their voices are heard on campus. And for sure, once a month we will have an open dialogue discussing critical topics around diversity and inclusion, so be on the lookout for that. We’re excited!
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