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Tilford READs for change

A group of staff and faculty discuss how respect can be shown in a variety of ways through different cultures during a Tilford READ meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 15. Libby Davis

Faculty, staff, and students are openly discussing important topics regarding culture, respect, and identity in a reader program sponsored by the PSU chapter of Tilford. 

Tilford READ hosted their second of five book discussions over “What if I Say the Wrong Thing” by Verna A. Myers on Wednesday September 15th in the Axe Library Basement. Extra copies of the book are available at the meeting for anybody interested in joining. 

“The conversation that this book encourages is what’s important, having the variety of perspectives and experiences, that’s everything from gender to age differences,” said Randy Roberts, dean of library services & book discussion participant. “That’s one of the great things about university experience is that you can have conversations in a valuable way that you might not have in other locales.”

Michael J. Tilford was the Wichita State University representative on the Regents Diversity and Multiculturalism Committee until his death in 1994. Because of Tilford’s personal experience of being an African American scholar in times of discrimination, Tilford made a large part of his career advocating for minorities in education. In honor of his work, the annual Kansas Board of Regents Diversity and Multiculturalism conference is named after him.

This year, the Tilford Conference will be hosted by the University of Kansas on Oct. 18. The Tilford Groups of the 6 Kansas Board of Regents state universities will get together and discuss the diversity and multiculturalism projects they have been participating in. PSU’s project that they hope to present is Tilford Readings for Empowerment and Diversity (READ). 

Provost Howard Smith and vice president of student life Steven Erwin were in attendance along with 6 other faculty members and 6 students. After introductions, the president elect of the chapter, Stephanie Spitz, encouraged dialogue by asking questions about culture. This led to an open conversation that hit topics such as food, identity, language, and barriers of respect.

“It’s great that the higher-ups are here, they aren’t typically seen in many places because they are so busy,” said Tiffany DeMoss, graduate student in school counseling. “I think them being here, engaging in conversation about diversity and culture, and being willing to share and learn with us is really awesome.”

Roberts said that he thinks the sentiment is shared by both students and faculty.

“It is important to recognize that our university’s administration is interested in these discussions and issues around them, and they are trying to be responsive to students and other issues on campus,” Roberts said. “I’m extremely pleased to see them participating in this.” 

Bridging gaps, whether it be between ages, genders, or cultures is the main goal of this chapter’s project, according to Spitz.

“It’s all about being more inclusive campus-wide, I would hope to see more relationships being built that are actually empathetic and supportive instead of judgmental or challenging,” Spitz said. “I would hope that more people find that it is okay to be vulnerable and ask the wrong question, and say the wrong thing, we can only learn and grow from there.” 

One of the visions that Tilford READ has for the future is students leading sessions that involve staff and faculty.

“I have hope that with these conversations, there can be changes in policies, procedures, services; or even calls to action after these conversations, because once we all understand one another and can emphasize then we can enact true change and a culture shift,” Spitz said.

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