It’s hard to miss all the colorful posters strung around campus. What’s also hard to miss is the messages they make. From racial discrimination to simply belonging on campus, the Inclusion Poster Project aims to highlight issues of diversity and inclusion on campus.
Sprung from the minds of Dr. Storm Heter, professor of philosophy & religion, and David Mazure, professor of art and design, in conjunction with Provost Joanne Bruno, the departments joined forces in an effort to spark conversation among the ESU community.
“The diversity at ESU is our best gift and what we need to do is unlock it,” said Dr. Heter. “Students are actually using their experiences, positive or negative, to send a message about how they feel and those messages end up being very very powerful.”
Inspired by graphic designer Miro Ilic’s poster exhibition on tolerance, students from the Mazure’s graphic design class and Heter’s Race, Gender, and Culture class joined forces to create works of art designed to engage the campus.
Guided by their professors, these students used original ideas to communicate their points of view as well as observations on student habits and the use of common areas on campus.
Sara Ahmed, an author specializing in various topics including feminist theory, queer theory and critical race theory, provided insight for the Race, Gender and Culture students who then bridged the gap between academic reading and the manifestation of concepts in the real world.
“I thought it was important to do this because it was right after Charlottesville,” said Dr. Heter, referring to the “Unite the Right” white supremacy rally in 2017. “For me to sit with my two Jewish daughters, look at the TV and have people chanting, ‘the Jews will not replace us’ and to see the political environment in which this is made possible. Wow. What can we do on college campuses?”
The first Inclusion Poster Project in 2017 was faced with a bit of controversy. One of the most talked-about posters depicted a Puerto Rican child lying dead and seemingly washed up on a beach while President Trump had his back turned, walking away from the child and holding a gold club. The poster was meant to convey a message on Trump’s treatment of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
The project was spread on social media, picked up by a national, right-winged news source and even resulted in vandalism of one of the posters. However, even though it was almost three years later, the project returned.
“Students have very powerful views about what an inclusive campus looks like so what they need of the tools to express them,” said Dr. Heter. “They need to know that if it gets torn down, we’ll put it back up again. They need the support to know that if somebody doesn’t like the message, that we will provide a space for dialogue.”
This semester, a decision was made to only have the posters up for a short period of time, ending with an in-depth discussion with students about the messages held on Jan. 28.
With the project already featured on ESU’s homepage, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee plans to continue the project and hopes that in the future, the impact will stretch outside of the campus.
“I think I think the key is to create community and if we’ve done that we’ve done our job if we’ve created more connections between people so that they can talk about.”
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