Panel promotes students’ cultural sensitivity

By Jon Platt

A call for education in cultural competency at Baylor arose at a panel discussion Tuesday evening on campus.

Faculty gathered with students to discuss a recent incident of insensitivity, where members of an intramural sports team were approved for the team name “Ferguson PD.”

The panel specifically focused on how to handle tough dialogue and how to progress forward in the face of senseless comments.

Panel speakers included Dr. Jerry Park, associate professor of sociology, Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, associate professor of journalism, public relations and new media, and Dr. Pedro Reyes, assistant professor of operations management.

Moody-Ramirez spoke from the perspective of an expert on media framing.

She said the opportunity that social media can bring attention to critical issues is a double edged sword. She related the event of reactions to the intramural team’s to how events escalated in Ferguson, Mo. and gained notoriety on a national level.

“On the one hand, social activists can spread news and bring awareness with social media, but, it can also highlight tensions and blow things out of proportion,” Moody-Ramirez said. “Social media covered activities you would not see in traditional media outlets.”

Park said his perspective came from that of a sociologist watching the events unfold.

In response to a student question from Twitter, he said a mandatory class on acceptance and cultural awareness was both optimal and necessary for Baylor. The other panelists said they agreed.

“We have to see a change in our interventions,” Park said. “One requirement could be to have a diversity course. Studies have shown that this improves campus quality of life over time.”

Reyes, who previously worked in the business sector, spoke of how communication occurs inside and outside an organization and how social media is changing this system.

Reyes said social media changes so fast that people cannot keep up with it. It provides unique abilities to connect internally and externally for the organization, but it can also harm people and companies in unintentional ways.

“All this power and we still have a difficulty being aware and staying connected with each other,” he said.

Also in attendance was Dr. Kevin Jackson, vice president of student life. Jackson gave closing remarks for the meeting.

Jackson said he accepted responsibility for the actions of the intramural team and painted a picture for the Baylor that he thinks starts with cultural acceptance and understanding.

“If we cannot be culturally competent, we cannot be leaders,” he said.

Kristyn Miller, student body external vice president said student government is putting a heavy emphasis on cultural competency and that she is working with faculty to host more events like Tuesday’s panel.