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Respect Week changes in light of presidential election

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Despite the nation electing a president who has repeatedly insulted minorities, veterans, the disabled, women and anyone who disagrees with him, New College students got important lessons in respect last week.

In place of the week of anti-hazing programs required by the State University System, Dean of Student Affairs Robin Williamson organized Respect Week as a way to build a more inviting and appreciative community on campus.

After speaking with students, Dean Williamson noticed that cultivating more respect among peers was an important need to improve campus community.

“I think New College needs a week like this so we can begin a conversation about what type of community do we want to have here and how do we invite, appreciate, and celebrate all members of our campus community,” Williamson said in an e-mail interview.

The week of events was meant to give students the skills to handle tough situations. A wide variety of topics were provided – such as “Communication in Cyberspace” and “A Cultural Clash Simulation” – to appeal to many students.

The results of the presidential election unexpectedly changed the significance of Respect Week.

“The nation and the world need you to be informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens,” Williamson said. “Divisive language fueled a lot of the campaign and election. Now is exactly the time that we educate and empower each other.”

In conjunction with many other events being organized on campus in response to the election, Respect Week gave students, faculty and staff an opportunity “to practice this self-awareness and self-reflection…[to] think about what they’re putting into the world,” Jessica Maxon, Director of First Year Programs, said in an e-mail interview.

“It’s not so much that we needed Respect Week because of the election, but for the aftermath,” Thelma Santiago, Health Educator, said in an e-mail interview. “We need to be prepared for some difficult but necessary bridge-building, and Respect Week allowed us to begin that process here on campus.”

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