Opinion
LGBTQ Center, Women’s Center and Intercultural Center address recent Islamophobia
Old Gold & Black
By
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Friday, February 10, 2017

We write today in support of our Muslim students, faculty and staff on campus and in our community.

As directors of our three campus cultural and identity centers — the Intercultural Center, the LGBTQ Center and the Women’s Center — we reaffirm our commitment to a diverse and inclusive Wake Forest where our Muslim members feel safe and welcome.

Along with our staff, our centers strive to create spaces that allow for both safety and support as well as the free exchange of ideas and the flourishing of a diversity of thought. Our centers invite students, faculty and staff with different backgrounds, experiences and ideologies to learn together and from each other. We seek to create spaces that both affirm students’ identities and ask them to critically interrogate their beliefs about the world. We help bridge learning in the classroom with students’ social and personal experiences. The Intercultural Center’s Intercultural Ambassadors, the LGBTQ’s Safe Zone program and the Women’s Center’s T.G.I. Feminism are just a few examples of how our Centers seek to provide brave spaces, described by Brian Arao and Kristi Clemons as spaces where students can engage in identity exploration, critical thinking and the practice of vulnerability. 

In our heightened political climate, this balance between safe space and learning space can seem elusive. The either/or of policy questions appears in vivid technicolor. Dialogue may be difficult, communication across difference is challenging and students from across the political spectrum may feel isolated and targeted by current debates.

It is because of this balance, however, that our Centers write today that we will not tolerate Islamophobia in any form. As educators, we reject the prejudice and hatred, the fear and misinformation in which Islamophobia is rooted.

Our mission as an educational institution demands that we make decisions based on evidence, not prejudice. Our values of Pro Humanitate demand that we honor and affirm the humanity of all people, and stand up for those who are being unfairly treated. 

We appreciate the statements we have heard from our senior leaders, colleagues and campus partners articulating and affirming our institutional values. We were reminded at last week’s standing room only panel about the recent executive order and what it means to be on a college campus with faculty members who will organize and lend their expertise to an emergent policy shift that impacts our students and community. We were reminded what it means to be part of the engaged liberal arts.

We understand our spaces to be a critical part of this work and we invite you to join us in it.

Angela Mazaris, director of LGBQT Center

Paige Meltzer, director of the Women’s Center

Jonathan McElderry, assistant dean of students and director of the Intercultural Center