Robert Morris University took the first step Tuesday to becoming the first school in Western Pennsylvania to successfully complete the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate initiative.
At a ceremony, Provost David Jamison signed a “resolution and respect” banner, which encourages the entire university community to combat prejudice and promote equality and harmony among people of different backgrounds.
“We’re very excited. Being the first in anything is always a joy and a privilege,” said Paul Spradley, assistant director of Student Life for Multicultural Affairs. “Robert Morris is in a growing state right now. One of the things we looked at and assessed was our diversity on campus. We understand the value of diversity and inclusion and were looking for partners to do things with.”
That partner turned out to be the Anti-Defamation League and its their No Place for Hate initiative. Spradley heard ADL Education Project Director Dina Clark speak about the initiative and thought it could be a “great fit” for Robert Morris.
“The main essence of the initiative is really to build a community of diversity and respect,” Clark said. “We identify schools and universities that are interested in a commitment to addressing any type of discrimination at their institution.”
Robert Morris expressed a strong desire to promote diversity and acceptance throughout its campus, Clark said. “They are openly dedicated to addressing all of the –isms, we recognize that you can’t totally eliminate hate; that would be ridiculous. They have expressed an open commitment.”
“I’ve been working with their multi-cultural affairs office, they have been trying very hard to work with the community to recognize how important diversity is,” Clark continued. “They have the support from the leadership at RMU, which many universities don’t have.”
However, it won’t be a cakewalk for Robert Morris. While they have taken the first steps to becoming certified as a No Place for Hate zone, they must prove throughout this school year that they are committed to holding such a title.
“There are guidelines they have to follow,” Clark said. “They will have several projects to complete, and we’ll identify additional events during the school year. At the end of the year if the projects are completed they will be designated a No Place for Hate zone.”
A couple of the projects have already been planned. The school will show an original play depicting the life of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other prominent African-Americans, on Jan. 19, and then hold a Unity Day Feb. 1 to kick off Black History month.
In addition to the projects, Robert Morris will hold a diversity lecture series, with a variety of speakers.
Spradley said that students will be encouraged to attend the events through their classes and their resident advisors.
“There are faculty members who are encouraging students to go by offering extra credit,” he said. “Our first-year experience classes are encouraging students to attend the diversity speaker series as well. We’re also getting support from residence life to have RAs hang up flyers and announcements.”
The No Place for Hate initiative is primarily done in high schools and middle schools because it is easier to get help from principals and superintendents, Clark said. However, she said the leadership at Robert Morris was very active and excited about the opportunity for the university.
In the fall, assuming Robert Morris completes all of the guidelines set forth by the ADL, they will be declared a No Place for Hate zone. However, each year they are required to get re-declared in order to keep the title.
If Robert Morris turns out to be a success, Clark hopes that other universities in the area would catch onto the program and attempt to also make their schools a No Place for Hate zone.
(Mike Zoller can be reached at pittchron.com.)