Constructive Engagement aims to broaden our perspectives on different issues and presents an opportunity for us to engage in meaningful conversations instead of debates. Aligning with the College’s vision and strategic plan, the Constructive Engagement initiative will provide the opportunity for every Union student to lead, to develop wisdom, empathy and courage. We will foster a learning environment where students, faculty and staff are empowered to engage with one another through intentional dialogues and reflection that helps us learn and grow as a community.
Stay tuned for upcoming programs.
Racial Injustice: What Can U Do?
We asked our community to reflect on the following question: When you heard about the recent racial injustices, what were your immediate reactions and feelings?
Responses from our community -
"I felt guilt. Ashamed that I knew something had to be done, and I basically sat on my hands. But I thought about it, and concluded that I had been doing what I can to advocate for the LGBT community, and attempting to use my platform to assist others to see that it is ok to be themselves, and that someone can live the way they are meant to live, and that it gets better." - Anonymous, Staff
"I also thought of the many trans sisters that have helped me along the way, for most of my adult life, that life in fear all the time. Although I did not have the language for it at the time, I recognized I had privilege that I did not want to compromise, at least was not ready. But I think of all of the stats each year that at least 25-28 trans women of color are murdered each year, sometimes more. I owe it to them to have their voices heard"
"I felt sick and disillusioned . . . at the same time called to action. Still unsure what step(s) I'll take and figure joining tonight's discussion is one way to begin." - Annette Lindsay, Alumni
"How many times can we be shocked? These incidents don't surprise me anymore, given the history of police brutality against black people. The video of George Floyd's murder is particularly sickening. It's been a depressing spring, so my feelings were sad. Those were my immediate reactions and feelings. Beyond those immediate reactions, I try to understand how things might change for the better. I'm not a person who has a great deal of power or influence. I was proud to see President Harris' video reflections and how he tied his personal experiences to Union's mission. As a staff member in College Relations I am proud to play a part of implementing the mission." - Tim Gergich, Staff Member
"Hurt, despair, frustration, sadness, and anger. I grew up in St. Louis and have been witnessing racial injustice for over 50 years. Rodney King and Ferguson shed light to a broader public what is happening everywhere. But now there are so many incidences being broadcast that no one should feel shocked by now. I felt hurt that a fellow human lost his life to racial violence, despair that institutional racism is the cause, frustration that I as an individual have little power to change such racism, sadness in grief, and anger at the people in power who willfully ignore blatant inequalities and refuse to act on behalf of the greater good of all peoples. Black Lives Matter. Period." - Megan Ferry, Faculty
"Tonight is about the Union community coming together to talk not only about the racial injustices that are occurring around us but also the ones occurring right on Unions campus. For starters, Union’s firm alliance with the police both upholds the racial institution of the police and ignores the racial injustices which have occurred within the Schenectady area. Furthermore, I for one have been thinking a lot about the racial injustices that occur on campus and continue to be swept under the rug. Black face occurring in one of the fraternities last year, not being discussed, and not being punished is unforgivable. The racial profiling unforgivable. The number of students who walk around throwing not only the n word, but also the racist word “doid” unforgivable. The Africana Studies department being run by a white woman is unforgivable. The number of racial injustices that have knowingly occurred on several sports teams such as volleyball, football, etc. unforgivable. Union College this needs to stop but first Union has to take ownership for its previous failings and apologize to the black community on campus and in the Schenectady area. Union is a predominately white institution and in order to move forward in a time like right now, the school has to come out about its past." - Anonymous, Student
"Horrified and saddened but not surprised. Wanting to be actively anti-racist but trying to figure out the best way to channel these emotions into constructive change in a concentrated area where I believe I can have the most impact." - Hope Noonan-Stoner, Student
"My first reaction was"Oh no not again" - Pete Brown, Parent
"As always when I read about an event like the killing of George Floyd (which happens far too often), my reaction was one of horror, anger, indignation, remorse, and even guilt. I am keenly aware of the privileges I have had my whole life, and I feel impotent and even paralyzed, because I don't know how I can have my voice heard and help to effect change. The whole COVID problem makes it even more complex since I am wary of attending protests and worried that they may inadvertently send the country back into lock-down. The horrific political situation complicates things even more. I think that our country is at a crossroads, we could devolve into dictatorship or rise up and create a more fair and just society. We MUST make history by preventing the former and creating the latter. I want to be part of a movement to make this happen." - Kathleen LoGiudice, Faculty
"The Black Lives Matter movement is still needed and there are more allies than in 2014. Plus, I am completing teaching a Political Sociology: #BlacklivesMatter course and the majority of the students are white and they felt well versed after taking the class to understand the historical and political context of George Floyd's murder. Plus they understood the concept and practice of being an ally. Yes, recent events are unfortunate yet I feel like the conversations and changes in policy will help us to become, as the late Rev Dr. Martin Luther King said, a Beloved Community." - Deidre Hill Butler, Faculty
"Anger, sorrow, and a sense of intense frustration." - Anonymous, Faculty
"This is f***ing 2020 and this continues to happen." - Anonymous, Faculty
"Outrage and anger" - Anonymous, Alumni
"Once again, I questioned the efficacy (or lack thereof) of knowledge as the privileged site and praxis through which structural racism is dealt with. The cyclical nature of our responses both obscure and highlight--as if trapped in a Sisyphean routine--the need for real, longterm systemic change. We are as much part of the solution as we are part of the problem. How do we recognize this absurd cycle, and how do we help to break it?" - Daniel Mosquera, Faculty
"When I first heard about the recent racial injustices, my immediate reaction was “Seriously?!! I can’t believe stuff like this is still happening!”. I’ve never actively sought out examples of racial inequalities outside of assignments for school, so when I saw those videos I was shocked. In hindsight, I’m ashamed that it took a violent video shared across all social media platforms for me to start paying attention. I’m also embarrassed that one of my first thoughts wasn’t “What can I do to help?”. Now, however, I have been reflecting and really looking inside myself to confront my own biases, and figure out ways that I can actively help and become informed on the issues of racial injustice and inequality." - Anonymous, Student
"I was disappointed that this still exists. I have talked with a peer/friend that was alive during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. We talked about how as a society we have not learned. I asked if the fact I did not live that experience is a good or bad thing. Meaning, does not directly living through it once before better allow me to have more hope we can solve this? Or if I lived and remembered it, does that make me more pessimistic about solving it as we tried and failed before? I also have thought much about how this environment has likely existed more in disguise or hidden for a long time. However, in recent years things happening in society have made this discriminatory behavior more acceptable. And as a result, it is becoming more visible and less overt. Racism and discrimination is being more publicly stated and done. I think there will always be some amount of racism and discrimination unfortunately, but we must push it back to the extreme minority where it is widely agreed to be wrong and corrected when it happens." - Anonymous, Alumni
"I am revolted by the killing of George Floyd. I am supportive of peaceful protests. But don’t agree with wanton violence to people and destruction of property. We as a community must figure out a way to confront the issues that are staring us in the face in a constructive manner. My hope is the latest incidents will act as a wake call. And we as community use it as way to create a discourse that will lead to solutions. I discovered that I have a conflict this evening and may have to leave the call early. Please include me in any future discussions." - Jim Taylor, Alumni
"Anger and outrage" - Michael, Staff
"Sadness and dread, frustration that these things keep happening - video of George Flloyd showed that his death was avoidable and it was incredible that no one tried to stop it. Worried about the volatility that would follow, particularly given the covid-19 threat to protesters." - Anonymous, Alumni
"First it took me some time to separate out two systemic issues: police brutality and racial discrimination. They are two distinct problems that probably require different solution approaches. The second thing I thought about was what is my responsibility and the government's responsibility to solve these two problems and what are the most effective approaches. I think the protests have captured everyone's attention and many people are motivated to act. The key question is HOW to practically harness that energy to most effectively and efficiently resolve the issues." - Brandon Bartnell, Alumni
"Disbelief as we have made great strides in America to prevent racial injustice. We now need more than ever to be observant to this and to do our part in supporting those who are treated unfairly. We are fortunate to live in a community where our police are well trained and treat all of us equally. We saw this recently and it resulted in zero violence in our community." - Michael Hilton, Staff
"I felt deep anger and outrage. It was very visceral because the murder and abuse of power were so blatant. And coming on the heels of the murder of the jogger in Georgia and the incident with Amy Cooper and the birdwatcher in Central Park, I just felt a crystal clear understanding of how vulnerable black people are in the United States. I observed it and understood it cognitively before, but the murder of George Floyd made me FEEL it in a way that I never had." - Anonymous, Staff
"Sick to my stomach, angry and heart broken." - Karen Radley, Staff
"When I heard about the recent racial injustices, I felt upset, angry and frustrated because our black community does not deserve this at all. I’m tired of the criminal justice system taking the side of white people with little punishment. I am also tired of white supremacy because they will go out of their way to hurt our black community. I felt hurt the most when I saw a video where black children were taught at such a young age how to be prepared when a police officer approaches him or her. Black children shouldn’t have to be scared and live in fear. They should enjoy their childhood. I want my black community to know that I stand with them and always will. I took this time to become more educated by purchasing books and also doing research on how I can provide my best support. I continue bringing awareness on social media and posting ways that my followers can support as well. As a future educator, I promise to teach my children the importance of our black community and to be peaceful with everyone no matter their race/ethnic background/sexuality." - Anonymous, Student
"Not surprised. Need for public to know who their police are and which ones are abusers. I complained to DA about false felony charges by Schenectady Police with arrest shown on video. Was told to mind my own business." - Frank Wicks, Community Members
"Dismayed , discouraged , exhausted .....and wonder what it will take to change as a country , community , neighborhood. We need & must do better when it comes to racial injustice . I believe that the seeds of a better tomorrow can be planted on the Union campus & that brings me hope!" - Anonymous, Alumni
"Disgust that this still continues. Feeling helpless in what I can do -- e.g., for fear of what I say could be misunderstood." - Anonymous, Parents
"Saddened of the murder; dread that I may now have to defend the color of my white (unprivileged) skin; anticipation at the opportunity to have difficult conversations with family and friends; misguided by the media; confused as to how to understand the difference between BLM and all lives matter" - Anonymous, Staff
"My immediate feelings were fear and despair followed by a feeling of helplessness and shame. When I heard that the city issued a curfew even though the protests were peaceful, I couldn't sleep. Then the curfew was lifted and now the community is looking for real solutions, and I want to be a part of that effort." - Linda Goodman, Staff
"I was horrified and angry, but not surprised given the history of racism in this country. As a white male I can never fully understand what it is like to be a person of color in this country but I know they are often not treated truly as equal. I am also distressed that our national government seems to be unable to adequately address these issues, other than by use of force." - Peter Ericson, Alumni
"I feel discouraged that this is still happening, in public no less! I believe that more effort to promote political correctness may be a valuable approach. As time goes on I sadly have less and less faith in our ability to “cure the disease” of social injustice fueled by prejudice. As a society we need to up our game concerning legislation and acceptable behavior, “treat the symptoms”, to keep the lid on all this. A sad but I think the most practical approach. I still believe that prejudice is a learned behavior and teaching people to oppose it should be pursued...but that is the long game. The short term approach is treating the symptoms aggressively. We need both." - Peter Meola, Alumni
"Having gone to college in Los Angeles in the 60's and remembering vividly the nearby Watts riots in 1965 (followed by many other race rebellions across the nation leading to the 1968 presidential election), my first reaction about the recent outpourings in Minneapolis was, "Here we go again - haven't we learned anything in 50 years?" But that was followed quickly by a second thought: what's new or different this time? Is this basically a repeat of Watts (or even of 1992 in LA), or is it a very different kind of reaction and expression the began in Minneapolis and then expanded nationally? I've thought a lot about that in the last several days, and part of what we choose to do now in seeking to make a difference hinges on how we understand 2020's protests ( and accompanying violence). What is different this time that matters? How much is the same old deep prejudices and discrimination?" - Bryon Nichols, Community Members
"I am a public school teacher and my reaction was, we teach the wrong message. We teach people that Civil Rights ended with MLK Jr. We teach people that America is about equality. We teach people that violence is wrong and not that it is an extension of frustration used by all people. We teach that to acknowledge the struggle of others somehow makes us unpatriotic. In short, we teach history without reflection." - Monica Coccia, Alumni
"When I heard about the recent racial injustices, my immediate feelings were overwhelming exhaustion and frustration. I personally have had to carry the burden of being seen as less human, less important, and less qualified all my life, despite proving the latter time and time again. Over the years, this burden has not gotten lighter or easier. It continues to build obstructions in my path to becoming an exemplary professional and a role model. In the workplace, I can't solely focus on my job duties, but I also have the unwritten duty to represent the voice of the people that look like me in addition to performing in lieu of individuals taking responsibility for their unconscious and racially motivated biases. When people of color die unjustly at the hands of law enforcement, I feel like it happened to me, to a close friend, or to a family member. I question my identity as an American, and the status of our country as a free nation. I fear being attacked in the street, or on the train, or even at work because I am "different." I question whether or not my niece and nephew will get an equal education and equal attention from their teachers and caregivers. I question if my white friends are really my friends, or if their kindness and attention for me is only present when their parents are not around to tell them what to really feel and think." - Anonymous, Alumni
"I thought,"It's about damn time." As POC, we need to stand up and have our voices heard. Some people absolutely don't want to get behind us, so I say good riddance." - Dante Scott, Student
"My immediate feeling was that I wanted more information. I’m an analytical person and I like facts and data. I wanted to know why George Floyd was being arrested, what happened that day, and whether the officer followed protocol. Deep down I think I wanted to know if George Floyd was a good person, just the same way I wanted to know if Amaud Arbery was a good person when the news of his death spread. This isn’t because I’m racist in any way or because I think that either of them deserved their fate. I think this is my white privilege showing. I had the ability and the audacity to wonder whether the victim was doing anything wrong, without first seeing the terrible injustice of their murders. I have learned A LOT in the past week. It no longer matters to me what George Floyd was doing and if he committed any crimes. It matters that the punishment for anything he could have done is not and should not be dying in the street under the knee of a police officer. My priorities have changed and I’m committing myself to being part of the solution in any way that I can." - Anonymous, Alumni
"My first reaction was anger and disbelief that this kind of injustice is still so prevalent in our society. Upon further reflection I've come to realize how little I actually know about why things like this still happen in this country and am beginning to realize how protected I am from actions like this." - Anonymous, Staff
"Initially, I was horrified and angry -- and then saddened, thinking back on the many previous examples of this kind of brutality I've heard about in the news over the years (Rodney King being the first example that really made an impression on me, just out of college). And subsequently, as I've watched the police, in some cases, responding with yet more physical violence to peaceful protests about police use of violence, I've felt despair. Lafayette Square was a particularly low moment. But there have been some bright moments, too: I'm encouraged by the persistence and diversity of the protestors, and by what seems like a genuine movement in some places towards police oversight and defunding measures -- let's hope these are real conversations, rather than merely being about optics. Finally, I can't help doubting whether we'd have had these kinds of protests if we'd instead had video of, say, Brock Turner's sexual assault on Chanel Miller, or the death of Sandra Bland...but I'm hoping that steps we manage to take toward disabling and dismantling white supremacy will also weaken the patriarchy, connected as they inevitably are." - Kara Doyle, Faculty
"Be proactive to insure the passage of police reform legislation in America; violent crime is down 70% in past 3 decades; police culture has not shifted to adapt to these changes; police still acting as if conditions today are what confronted them 3 decades ago; TODAY- police need more than ever to be problem solvers- not aggressors. Change attitudes of some of the bad cops who abide by: "Better to be tried by 12, than to be carried by 6". When police are charged with a crime, it needs to be investigated, not by the local police dept., local prosecutors or DA's, but by an independent group not associated with the policing function. We absolutely need regulations and reforms that underscore that no one, including police officers, are above the law. I believe our country is now standing together (different races, different ages) and are on the brink of a turning point in race relations in this country. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, the statistic that a black man during his lifetime in the US faces a 1 in 1000 chance of being killed by the police (white men is 1/3 of that chance) will dramatically be diminished. The SC decision of Qualified Immunity in Harlow v Fitzgerald (1982) needs to be eventually overturned." - Cliff Mastrangelo, Alumni
"Angry and tired." - Anonymous, Alumni
"A pit in my chest, knots in my stomach, and a strong sense of hopelessness, sadness, and fear. Like I was in an endless cycle of people not caring about my life or the lives of people like me. Also a lot of confusion because all I could ask myself was what basic act will the next person do that will lead to their death, and what if that was me?" - Lola, Student
"This is something that we have been dealing with for years. Floyd’s murder was something that took us over the edge. I’ve always been scared for myself, and especially my male friends/family members when they go outside because I never know when the last day that I’ll see them will be. The police and racist people have instilled that on me. America has instilled this fear in all of us. It is hard to go to sleep at night, to focus at work, to celebrate accomplishments during these times of injustices. We need everyone on our side to fight for what is right. We need the support. It saddens me but does not surprise me at the very little involvement that Union has had in regards to this. Other than this specific forum, what are you doing to help your students and alumni cope? How you spreading awareness and making changes to Union so that Union becomes a safe space for the black community?" - Yesenia Negron, Alumni
"In both cases: the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the murder of George Floyd, I remember closing my eyes, lowering my head into my hands and letting my shoulders drop down as I let all energy and motivation to take on the day roll off of me. That is how I remember feeling, but I find it more difficult to explain what I felt: I think my initial feelings were a deep sadness for the victim and their family, but also for the future of this country for the future of my child, growing up in this country. My child is white and so I will not pretend to even come close to understanding the fear black parents feel every day. But as a mom, I still would like my child to grow up in a harmonious society, where people respect each other, where people are happy (it might sound naïve to many, but I want to believe in this). In addition to the sadness there was also anger and frustration as to why this keeps happening over and over again. And finally, mixed with these feelings there was also a feeling of shame, for being part of this white race that has been and still continues to do so much wrong. I don’t believe that white people are inherently bad, but during these racial injustices it is hard to be proud of being white … After watching the video of George Floyd’s murder, that is when the anger really dominated all other feelings. The overwhelming abuse of power demonstrated by the cops in the video as well as the lack of humanity and the dehumanizing methods used are just appalling and it makes me want to vomit. The arrogance and confidence that those cops have that they can just do whatever they want without any fear of repercussions is just frightening." - Anonymous, Faculty
"I want answers. The Schenectady police department is a historically corrupt oppressive institution that directly targets the black community. I don't want excuses. I don't want the conversation to be redirected. I want the police to accept their past and present racism. We are all racist, it's just a question of how. How do we know that an officer taking a knee isn't merely performative? How do we know the officer won't terrorize protestors like cops are doing across the country right know? The police department needs to apologize. Apologize for centuries of mistreatment, of perpetuating a racially injustice and oppressive system, of not educating themselves on the black experience until four black lives were lost in one weekend. The Union administration needs to add black history (as well as a GSW credit) as a common curriculum course, since my public high school education erased the black narrative. What are sports teams doing? Greek life doing? Frat boys working door who refuse to let POC in. It happens EVERY weekend. Black students told they need to show Union ID to prove that they belong here. Black students silently watch white students scream "N*****" while singing along to rap songs that were not intended for their cultural appropriation. The college and the city of Schenectady has a long racist history. We need to ACCEPT this past to MEDIATE our present and PRAY for a better future. Insisting that "our college does not tolerate racism" or "we are not racist" is a waste of time. Stop trying to cover your tracks, check your privilege and LISTEN to how you have (intentionally AND unintentionally) damaged your black community." - Anonymous, Student
"My first thoughts included a whole lot of words that I won't type here, followed by what the hell is wrong with us (white people)? As I continued to think about what happened I was stuck by this metaphor: the country is on fire and Trump is an arsonist. This feels like the end to me. I am angry, sad, exasperated, but mostly I'm simply pissed off at the willful ignorance I see all around, when I was 20 I naively thought that racism would improve when older generations passed. I'm in my late 40s now and feel heartbroken. I remember the joy and elation I felt when Obama was elected and has happy as I felt then, it how angry I feel now." - Anonymous, Staff
A Constructive Engagement with Hanna Stotlan J.D., Admission Consultant and Theodore O'Neill, former Dean of Admissions at University of Chicago
A conversation featuring a former white supremacist and a Sikh whose father was killed in a mass shooting at a temple
11/19/2019 - Constructive Engagement on Firearm Ownership
A collaboration between the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Union College Students for Gun Sense Club. The program offered students, faculty and staff a safe space to converse and learn about others’ perspectives regarding the 2nd Amendment Rights.
Identity Dialogue 2.0
A collaborative effort between the Office of Intercultural Affairs, Student Forum and other student clubs. The purpose of Identity Dialogue 2.0 is to broaden audiences’ perspectives regarding the experiences of Union students based on their social identities.
02/12/2020 - Do all Black students think the same?
TBD - Do all women students think the same?
TBD - Do all Muslim students think the same?
TBD - Do all LGBTQ+ students think the same?