The Commission of Multicultural Understanding invited IU faculty and staff members on March 7 to discuss problems concerning masculinity on campus.
Eads and Brian Morin, the co-conveners of COMU, named the meeting “Teachable Moments Committee Staff Luncheon.” Eads and Morin both said their main purpose was to bring faculty and staff together to discuss relative issues on campus so they could promote healthy masculinity in their lives and workplaces.
“I wanted to get us to start having conversations and get people sharing ideas and forming partnerships,” Eads said. “We know that all these people here are interested in this, so if we go back to our office and they need help with something, we have like 60 or so colleagues that we could call and ask and try to make this a place where men and people who identify as male could come and feel like they can express themselves in a healthy way and don’t feel like they have to live up to negative stereotypes.”
Eads, who also works as associate director of Student Support Programs and Conduct, says she sees a disproportionately high number of males in the judicial conduct system.
“They are the main perpetrators of crime,” Eads said. “We’re trying to combat that and say that there’s more to being masculine than some of these negative stereotypes. ”
Morin, assistant director for Office of First Year Experience Programs, said the event would help faculty and staff realize they have colleagues who care about the same issues.
“Sometimes when you’re doing work with social justice, you feel like you’re doing it alone, and it’s helpful to see that there’s other people doing it with you,” Morin said.
The first question to start off the discussion asked for the most current song attendees listened to.
Lyman Montgomery, a Residential Programs and Services human resources consultant, said the song that came to mind was a song he didn’t like.
“I don’t like it because it’s a racially charged song,” Montgomery said. “It’s by Rick Ross and it’s called “These N-Words Can’t Hold Me Back.”
Montgomery said that as a man, he felt perspectives of masculinity have shifted over time. For example, his father’s definition of masculinity was a hard-working man who comes home smelling like a workout. Montgomery said his son’s definition of masculinity was having “swag.”
He said masculinity in general was defined by having confidence and being vulnerable.
The group talked more about certain terms that society gives men to live by, such as “man up.”
Sarah Nagy said we live in a “box-checking culture” where you’re either feminine or you’re masculine. This culture reaches to careers and gender-associated jobs.
In the end, a group shared what they defined as healthy masculinity.
Laura Wheaton, assistant director for development at Residential Program Services, spoke for her group and said healthy masculinity blends responsibility with compassion for others.
“Without that, you can’t be a man in society,” Wheaton said.
COMU is a group of students, staff and faculty dedicated to increasing multicultural understanding on campus. COMU puts together programs throughout the year, ranging from retreats to discussions about policy issues, Eads said.
“Basically anything dealing with multicultural understanding, we would take it on in various different ways,” Eads said.
Wheaton said that she is also part of a committee that organizes educational opportunities relating to diversity, inclusion and social justice issues.
“Since I serve on that committee, I wanted to find out what else was going on campus,” Wheaton said. “And how we might be able to connect and maybe share resources and get some other ideas on how we can educate our staff. I also want to get to know more people.”
Wheaton said she believes learning about multiculturalism is important at IU.
“There’s no place more multicultural than the university,” Wheaton said. “It’s becoming the microcosm of the world. We have to be able to understand other cultures and just other ways of being and not judge them.”
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