Differences Come Together

January 11, 2019

First-Ever “Deepening the Dialogue” Fall Equity Symposium

2018 Equity Symposium

Evergreen’s first-ever Fall Equity Symposium, held Oct. 11-12, 2018, gave the Evergreen community tools to create a stronger sense of belonging on campus. Student-success scholar Terrell Stray- horn, Ph.D., offered a Thursday keynote on “Cultivating a Culture of Belonging.” Friday keynote speaker Joy DeGruy, Ph.D., a researcher, editor, and author, discussed “Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing,” based on her book of the same name.

The event featured a multicultural resource and networking fair as well as 16 interactive workshops to help people connect and get to know each other across their many points of difference.

Senior Meyar Mamis, a Pacific Islander and full-time student, who planned and participated in the symposium, had her first real lesson of working with people whose points of view vastly differ from hers. Afterward, Mamis reflected on the experience from those two perspectives.

“I had to find a balance on how to be a professional as I planned the equity symposium—and how to be a full-time student with all the full rights of questioning themes and ideas,” she said. “The symposium was unique and surreal for me, and I learned that no matter where you go, we are all different.”

Bridging Gaps

One workshop was facilitated by Ever- green alumna Emily Pieper ’09, MPA ’18 and alumnus Ray Holmes MPA ’00. Pieper is an Evergreen staff member, activist, and educator. Holmes is a former Olympia police officer, now Evergreen’s interim director of Police Services, responsible for campus safety.

When Pieper was a student activist, she clashed with police during a 2007 protest at the Port of Olympia, while Holmes was a police lieutenant and incident commander. Pieper said she was in an adversarial role to the police that day and although Holmes wasn’t there when she was arrested, he was aware of the arrests.

Students at Equity Symposium

Holmes said he was surprised to learn that both were Evergreen alumni on different paths—years had passed after the protest, and now they were facing each other, collaborating and facilitating a workshop called “Bridging the Divide, Hope Restored.”

“Doing the workshop, I felt nervous. I still work and organize in a community that has challenging and conflicting feelings and experiences with policing,” said Pieper. “Now, it is my role and my privilege to reach out to somebody who has a different perspective than me and be a model for how we might work together.”

“With the workshop,” said Holmes, “I got the chance to work with someone I’d never met before. Years ago, I was part of law enforcement and she was an activist; part of a demonstration. Our worlds collided.”

While Pieper and Holmes have commonalities, they differ in many beliefs. The symposium was about bridging those gaps and learning why deepening dialogue matters. In facilitating the class, they did find more commonalities. “We both really care about Evergreen and Olympia,” said Pieper. “If we don’t talk to each other, we miss an opportunity to work together to make this place better.”

“As a cop, I have the responsibility to be neutral and unbiased. I can’t be passion- ate about a situation—I have to protect people’s rights,” said Holmes. “In the workshop, I was able to share that others may have the perception that cops believe a certain way, when in reality, their beliefs may not be too far apart from the cause they’re called in to neutralize.”

Chassity Holliman-Douglas, Evergreen’s vice president for inclusive excellence and student success, hopes staff like Holmes and Pieper will continue to bridge those gaps and promote equity at Evergreen and beyond. “It starts with staff and faculty and what they can take back into their positions to improve the experience of the most vulnerable of our student population,” said Holliman-Douglas.