WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) – In a new initiative, Otterbein University hopes to tackle tough conversations.
Wednesday, the school announced it’s now designated a “Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation” Campus Center. Otterbein is the only institution in Ohio, and one of 23 across the country, to receive the distinction from the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
“We need to be honest about how we got where we are and how we can heal moving forward,” explained university president Dr. John Comerford.
The newly designated campus center will be based out of The Point, a classroom and community space at Otterbein. It will host small group discussions and facilitate larger dialogues along with community partners, like the cities and school districts of Columbus and Westerville.
“We expect that when people are exposed to those different ideas that their world view might change a little bit, we’ll all learn from each other and we’ll create a movement over time as that feeds on itself,” Dr. Comerford said.
Cheryl Ward, the director of Social, Emotional and Student Services and Columbus City Schools explained the district was consulted in developing the program. She hopes the partnership will be reciprocal: both highlighting initiatives working in the district, as well as setting an example of inclusion for CCS students.
“Helping young people understand the true narrative of our city, of education… those things we hold dear, but those things we need to wrestle with as well, those things we need to come to grips with,” Ward said.
Otterbein sophomore Da’Viona Fowler said she chose the school for its welcoming atmosphere and inclusion, but she recognizes there’s always room for improvement.
“A lot of people don’t like to acknowledge [racism] and so I’d like to talk more about that and be more open and for everyone to just feel more comfortable talking about it, instead of just trying to dismiss it,” Fowler explained.
The Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation framework consists of changing narratives, building relationships and healing race relations.