Ohio State University Student Body President Andrew Jackson and his counterparts across the Big 10 Conference will join student leaders from universities around the country at USC Shoah Foundation next week to think critically about diversity and inclusion on their campuses.
They will be the first students to participate in USC Shoah Foundation's Intercollegiate Diversity Congress
(IDC) Summit, to be held Oct. 13-14, 2017, on the USC campus. It will convene student leaders from higher education campuses across the United States to support their efforts in building inclusive connected communities. USC Shoah Foundation will provide resources and training for the student leaders to be able to convene groups of students, staff and faculty to explore and engage in dialogue around campus climate issues. IDC is a program of the Institute's Countering Antisemitism Through Testimony initiative.
Like most of the 20 students attending the IDC, Jackson first learned about USC Shoah Foundation at the National Campus Leadership Council's Presidential Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. in June. Kori Street, USC Shoah Foundation Senior Director of Programs and Operations, gave a keynote presentation about how testimony and IWitness could be used to promote inclusion and tolerance on college campuses. She also told them about the upcoming IDC and encouraged them to attend.
"Hearing from [Street] about her experience with USC Shoah Foundation and the things [it has] accomplished was something you don't hear about every day," Jackson said.
Jackson and the other Big 10 presidents receive offers to attend many conferences throughout the year, he said, so they are very selective about which conferences they choose. But he and his colleagues felt USC Shoah Foundation had something important to offer.
"We wanted to have a good showing of [Big 10 schools] there because we thought it was a good opportunity to learn from this amazing organization that has been doing work to preserve voices that haven't been heard," he said.
Jackson's administration at Ohio State has already taken steps to increase the diversity of student enrollment, offer gender neutral student housing, ensure students are excused from class for religious holidays, and even provide free feminine hygiene products throughout the campus. But he knows there is more work to be done to foster a community that is inclusive for all students, and that's where USC Shoah Foundation comes in.
"Having student leaders come together to focus solely on diversity and inclusion on our campuses will be a really great way for us to spread ideas and best practices, not only looking at what we do on our campuses but through a worldwide lens," Jackson said. "The [USC] Shoah Foundation is going to be able to help us with that. You have so much history and work in that area, you'll have the best opportunity and means to facilitate those discussions within our group."
Jackson is committed to learning more about the diverse backgrounds and communities that his fellow students at Ohio State represent and learning strategies for reaching out to all of them and coming together to solve problems.
Hatred and bigotry are often the result of a lack of education about the issues, Jackson said. Through the IDC, he hopes to become better equipped to deal with conflicts that arise on and off campus and support students in their desire for change.
"So many things that have changed in America started on college campuses," Jackson said. "We want to be on the forefront of being able to change things and recognize the change that's happening."