Roderic R. Land, PhD, and other leaders at Salt Lake Community College are promoting unity on campus in the aftermath of a contentious presidential campaign.
Land, the special assistant to President Deneece Huftalin, sought to reassure fearful students and staff during a discussion titled “Bridging the Political Divide: Hope, Healing, and Reconciliation” last Thursday at Taylorsville Redwood Campus. Land said SLCC will always be a safe place, despite the results of the recent election.
“I don’t want you to think that our values will shift because of this election,” he told the audience. “That’s a message from the president, from me, from the entire cabinet: You are welcome.”
In reference to the controversial remarks by President-elect Donald Trump, Land also told Trump voters that they too had a place on campus, despite a year and a half of extremely divisive rhetoric both emanating from and directed to them.
“For those who did support Trump, I applaud you,” he said. “But I will say this as well: If you don’t subscribe to what he stands for, what are you doing as a collective to bridge that divide? What are you doing if you don’t stand for those things?”
Scott Kadera, manager of counseling services for the Center for Health and Counseling, also addressed the audience and talked about the #safetypin campaign, which indicates a citizen’s willingness to be an advocate for groups who feel marginalized or threatened.
After Kadera finished his remarks, Land further explained the symbolism of the movement.
“If you are to wear this pin, I’d advise you this pin means that you are standing up against hateful speech in all forms,” he said. “You can’t pick and choose, you never know if your group will be the next target.”
Concern over future of college, country, family
Land then accepted questions and commentary from the audience. The audience was nervous, as evidenced by the amount of joking around that took place before the event, but possessed the wide array of viewpoints.
Regardless of how they felt about politics, the SLCC staff members who attended felt the need to let their students know they cared for them.
“I am making a choice to let them know where I stand. I told my students today that I cared deeply about them regardless of how they felt,” said Tiffany Rousculp, a member of the English department. “I’m not going to remain silent on those things anymore.”
Other attendees were decidedly more conflicted on how to proceed with the national dialogue in the wake of such a momentous election season.
“This is a catalyst for change, hopefully for positive change. For hopefully bringing about those allies and coalitions we need to create positive change,” said Barbie Willett, associate dean for the School of Business.
Jan Coleman, a staff member with Institutional Marketing and Communication, expressed her apprehension at the awkwardness that is sure to pervade almost every Thanksgiving dinner this week.
“What’s the point in having that conversation if everyone’s going to get upset?” she asked.
Land, cool as a cucumber and with a smile, knew exactly how to respond.
“You know your family better than I know your family,” Land replied. “You may need to wait for a time when tempers have cooled. If you are not in a space where you can hear each other, it may dissolve a relationship that is important to you. It’s not mandatory that you have a conversation now.”