Alumni Western Be Extraordinary The Campaign For Western

Progress on campus happens because of relationships, shared values

by David Simmonds, BA’07 (Political Science) | October 13, 2017

David Simmonds, BA’07 (Political Science)
David Simmonds, BA’07 (Political Science), Alumni Association President

My Western experience was not always easy.

I faced my share of discrimination. Much of it unintentional, born out of ignorance and unfamiliarity, but discrimination nonetheless.

I remember one colleague explaining how excited she was to have a friend with a minority background, then offering the ‘compliment’ that I wasn’t really ‘black.’ That was amplified when I shared that I was gay. Wait, you’re black AND gay?

Experiences like these can make it easy to feel progress is eroding. Watching events unfold like the recent tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., make it easy to feel like universities aren’t safe spaces for difference. Don’t believe it.

Universities drive social progress – campus communities facilitate new values and change beliefs. Today, Western celebrates diverse identities in ways I could have only dreamed of as a first-year student.

Our administration and student leadership are examples of what deliberate leadership can do to advance inclusivity, including the powerful image of our University President, Alumni Association President, and University Students’ Council (USC) President all being persons of colour, for the first time.

This year, we embraced Pride celebrations like never before, hosting events for alumni, students, faculty and staff in London and Toronto. Rainbow crosswalks were painted on campus as a reminder of the importance of diversity. In the shadow of hateful acts in Charlottesville, the University President publicly resolved that Western would be “a campus community that doesn’t simply tolerate our many differences, but one where they are respected and celebrated.”

We can always do more. We must weed out systemic discrimination where we live and work, enabling all individuals to reach their full potential, and thus individually creating an even stronger workplace, university and society.

Despite these realities being hard to imagine when I started at Western, I now see that much of our progress happens because of the relationships and values shared at Western. Through diligence and continued support, we can create even better experiences for students in the future.

Western is increasingly a place where students, faculty, staff, and alumni can think openly and make meaning with the goal of social justice.

That makes me purple and proud.

This article appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of Alumni Gazette
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