The first of three student-centered discussions about race on the Niagara University campus took place on Wednesday, Sept. 23. More than 120 students from both the Lewiston and Vaughan locations, faculty, staff, and administrators attended the Zoom meeting, which provided students a safe space to reflect on current issues and share their personal experiences. The intent of the series is to give students the opportunity to learn from each other and to discuss ways to demand justice.

The hour-long conversation, which was sponsored by the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equality, and Mission and moderated by senior social work students Michael Rice, Jade Goers, and Cora Wright, focused on the racial issues that took place over the summer, including violence toward Black Americans at the hands of police and the disproportionate impact that COVID-19 has had on Black and Hispanic communities. Students considered questions including if their professors had initiated discussions about the events that transpired over the summer, whether or not they were comfortable talking about the issues in their classes, and what they expected to happen as a result of the report of the Identifying and Dismantling Racial Injustice Task Force. At the end of the hour, the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president, spoke on the status of funding for scholarship support for students of color and said that he would give an update on the implementation of other task force recommendations at the upcoming forums.

“I can pledge you this, at the heart of the Vincentian mission is this work, and it is to create an inclusive community that’s welcoming and that brings people’s experiences to the fore,” he said. “We’re not going to let this go. This is our moment, and this is our window and our opportunity to change, and really to make a difference as we go forward.”