Inclusive Excellence launches summer book club to combat internal biases

Cal Poly Pomona’s Inclusive Excellence Council recently launched a summer book club aimed to create conversations within the campus community surrounding biases and discrimination. The book selected for the summer event was “The Person You Mean to Be: How Good People Fight Bias” by author and New York University Associate Professor Dolly Chugh.

The book club was first announced by Nicole Butts, the presidential associate for Inclusive Excellence and Diversity who chairs the council, during the June 2 virtual Community Reflection on Anti-Blackness held by the university’s Office of Inclusive Excellence.

“The purpose of this book club is to give the community a grounding on implicit bias that leads to racism,” Butts said.

Chugh’s book is centered on recognizing biases and where this thought process originates. It also aims to teach its readers what they can do to decrease their prejudices.

“Some books would be off-putting, but this book is accessible,” Butts added. “The book wasn’t threatening for a wider variety, and it’s not blatantly calling the reader a racist.”

According to Butts, CPP President Soraya Coley recognized the need to focus on the inclusion of students and staff, and the book club was a way for the campus community to begin discussing difficult issues, like bias.

While members of the book club are expected to read the book on their own time, the club offers virtual discussions for members to join every couple of months.

Members also had the opportunity to attend a virtual meet and greet with the author on Aug. 7. Co-hosted with Butts, the webinar discussed key themes of the book — including confronting racism, sexism and injustice. More than 150 students and staff registered to attend the virtual meeting.

“Despite the reader’s beginnings, I hope that they leave with a sense of place…and learn how to make the world better,” Chugh said.

The Inclusive Excellence Council was first launched last year as a university response to campus climate and discriminatory incidents against students of color.

In a July 1 recap of what CPP has done to combat racial injustice and inequity, Coley described the Inclusive Excellence Council as a “standing, representative body of faculty, staff and students to advise the campus on strategies to cultivate and enrich an inclusive and diverse campus community.”

Through the council’s summer book club, students were able to discuss topics that can, at times, be uncomfortable and leave with an open mindset. It also allowed for personal growth while challenging each other’s opinions and beliefs.

The Office of Inclusive Excellence hopes to continue creating a welcoming and inclusive environment as it plans to better represent individuals in the campus community who are underrepresented. The university also plans to review and modify campus policies, as needed, to adhere to its mission.

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