This spring semester the Lee Honors College cuts to the chase by taking on the theme Fulfilling America’s Promise: Racial Equality and Justice for their Lyceum Lecture Series. The Lyceum Lecture series is a semester long event held in the Honors college lounge every Wednesday at noon featuring speakers considered experts in their designated field of study. Asha Noor, the Advocacy and Civil Engagement Specialist for the National Network for Arab American Communities, will be giving a strikingly pertinent lecture called How toTake on Hate: A Dialog on Islamophobia and Racism.
This timely issue seems intentionally orchestrated as a political gesture due to its close procession to recent attacks on the Muslim community, but the Honors college had begun organizing this event early in the summer. Though this coincidence could raise one to wonder at the fortune-telling abilities coming from within the honors college, Dr. Jane Baas, the associate dean of the Honors College, and the previous interim dean, assures us that nothing mystical was at play when the decision was made.
“We could see things coming to a head with the recent election cycle,” Baas said. “People get up in arms about a particular event or issue and be gung ho about it for a little while but then it would be forgotten.”
Baas said that this is what made the board wish to do a series that focuses on activism for sustained change rather than just momentary attention.
“We can’t just get up in arms for a short time and expect change. If we don’t keep shining the light on what is wrong than nothing is going to change,” Baas said.
To promote the change that the officials at the Honors College strive for, they chose activists with a long history of opening the dialogue of inequality, recent topics including women of the civil rights movement, a panel with law enforcement officers in struggles to overcome racial profiling, and first generation college students. The key note speaker for the spring series is Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin who became an activist after his murder in 2012.
The Feb. 22 event with Noor has become one of the more sought after events due to the recent outpouring of support the Muslim community has received in response to President Trump’s ban on Syrian refugees and halt of immigration from “terror-prone” countries such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Trump’s administration also calls for the visas of individuals from these countries to be revoked.
The opportunity to have Noor lecture at WMU came from Mariam Mustafa, a Graduate Assistant in the Honors College, who knew and has worked closely with Noor before. Noor graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor in Political Science. Since then she has worked domestically and abroad working with marginalized groups but is perhaps best known for her involvement in the TAKE ON HATE campaign.
"The Campaign to TAKE ON HATE is a great fit for me because I love to mobilize and organize around causes that are not only pressing, but that I am also passionate about. In the past, I’ve worked on racial justice issues and advocacy work with marginalized communities,” Noor said.
Noor has also worked with Islamic Relief USA where she gained a working understanding of conflict in the Middle East and an interest in Conflict and Peace studies.
Mustafa is hopeful after coordinating with Noor that students will get the most out of this experience. “It’s one thing to hear or read about the issues, but it is another thing to sit down with someone and have that personal dialog about an issue that they care deeply about.”
Though WMU is a public university, officials on campus have been adamant in showing their support for the students made vulnerable by the recent ban. President Dunn himself released a statement short after that ban.
“As a globally engaged University, we enthusiastically recruit, welcome and embrace students from throughout the world. We provide a great education for our international students. They, in turn, enrich the University experience for all by sharing their gifts—intellect, culture, language and customs… it is my intent as president to do all in my power to protect and advocate for our international students,” Dunn stated.
“I am here to see young people blossom and be all they are capable of being. Anything that gets in the way of that is something that education has a duty to address,” Baas said on the topic. “I don’t think of that as political I think of that as making a safe place for people to thrive.”
Though remaining impartial to politics, the Honors College has a history of spurring conversations of difficult topics, including “Race Matters” in the fall of 2013, and “Imagine a World without Sexual or Gender Based Violence” in the fall of 2015.