The Richmond College Dean's Office introduced the "I am Richmond College" project this February. The initiative is designed to celebrate diversity, both visible and invisible, within the RC community.
An "I am Richmond College" video, published on the RC website, features nine RC men who talk about their different identities based on background and experiences, sexual orientation, religion and nationality.
Matt Palmisano, RC '14, said he was proud to participate. He identified as a gay Republican in the video.
"I think I might have said something that shocked a few people but I thought that if that could make at least one more guy on this campus more comfortable in themselves, then it was worth it," he said.
Other men acknowledged overcoming an anxiety disorder, living in Tanzania, following Christ, being engaged to his high school sweetheart and being the public service announcer at Spider sports events.
According to the Richmond College Dean's Office, the hope is these students' stories will act as conversation starters to explore student body diversity, as well as "congratulating these men on their courage to share their stories and express their personal and authentic brand of masculinity."
"I am Richmond College" and the aim to define a positive and diverse image of masculinity is the result of a planning retreat sponsored by the Richmond College Dean's Office in summer 2012. It is an adaptation of Quinnipiac University's "This is Me" program.
"It is a two-way street: We make up the College, but the collective actions of all Richmond College students reflect on all of us, so there is a shared responsibility that comes with saying 'I am Richmond College,'" said Joe Boehman, dean of Richmond College and associate dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, in an email. "We create the legacy of the College, and we are responsible for what that legacy says about each of us."
Matt Logan, RC '16, identified as "a Midwestern boy who has fallen in love with the East coast." While Logan had thought the "I am Richmond College" campaign had great intentions and potential, he had wished more men were involved with the campaign and grasped the rationale behind it.
"'I am Richmond College' holds each of us accountable for actions as men on the campus and it is up to each and every one of us to strive to maintain a positive image of masculinity and to also demand it from our peers," Logan said.
Not all students perceive the same benefits of the initiative as those featured in the video do.
"I think that the concept of spreading the message about our campus' diversity is important, but it seems a bit forced," Andrew Jones, RC '14, said. "I have immense respect for the individuals that were chosen for this project, but as a graduating senior I know that this video doesn't accurately portray how student life really is on campus.
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"To me, 'I am Richmond College' is a term that helps me connect to our school's historical past, but I don't feel that it defines me... Campus life is very different from this nine-person grid."
Recent remarks by board of trustees member Paul Queally do not align with the values and ideas expressed in "I am Richmond College." Members of the initiative have mixed feelings about this disconnection.
Logan believes the comments have strengthened the "I am Richmond College" message because it shows students they are responsible for upholding these ideals even after graduation. However, Palmisano thought Queally's remarks hurt the overall message and purpose of the initiative.
Boehman believed the video proved that Queally's comments were not reflective of the diversity within Richmond College. David Bunke, RC '17, who identified as being from the mushroom capital of the world in the video, said his views about the initiative have not changed because of Queally's statements. "I am committed to helping the university any way possible, and I will not let one man's comments affect my views," he said.
Some men were chosen for the video for their work with the Dean's Office or campus partners, and others were chosen based on subjects they wrote about to the Dean's Office. While the selection process is informal, RC plans to ask students to share their stories in the future. Boehman said he was proud of these students for stepping up and being trailblazers.
"I think it's really neat that Richmond College went out to do something like this, and I think it would be really neat if Westhampton College did something similar," Palmisano said.
Contact reporter Danielle Schweizer at email@example.com
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