When it comes to embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion, Farmingdale State College has much to celebrate. The College recognized two of the many people critical to that effort on September 15 at the annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Awards. 

“It’s a good time to take stock in what we are working on and what we’ve done at FSC,” President Dr. John S. Nader said at the ceremony. “We have so much pride in what we have accomplished and we can look to where we are going.”

The awards honor individuals and/or organizations that have made exceptional contributions to inspiring and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the College community. They are intended to recognize that a diverse campus community empowers institutional excellence by broadening and strengthening the college's mission of teaching, learning, and scholarship.

“(Promoting) diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just an academic exercise,” said Dr. Kevin Jordan, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence and Chief Diversity Officer. “We want this campus to be welcoming to everyone.”

This year’s honorees stood out for their work transforming campus culture. Fatoma Rad, a Senior Assistant Librarian at Greenley Hall, was recognized for diversifying the library’s collection of books. Junior Elena Ortiz Dilone of Hempstead was cited for several research projects, among them studies on how Hispanic students view campus police and campus police attitudes toward LGBTQ students.

In the five years since coming to FSC, Rad infused the library’s collections with more Black and indigenous authors, created a permanent collection of authors from underrepresented cultures, and scheduled special displays. “I started evaluating the collection to improve inclusion of books and other materials representing a wide variety of authors and viewpoints,” she said before the ceremony. Those who cannot make it to the library can see the displays on social media posts.

In order to highlight social inequalities and highlight Black voices, according to Rad, she created a permanent library display called The FSC Black Experience - which was co-created with former NAACP Student President Darrien Hunt in summer 2020. With the possibility of FSC becoming a Hispanic-serving institution, Rad worked with her student employees to translate part of the library website into Spanish.

Her coworkers have been very supportive of her efforts. “I want to thank the library—I have very out of pocket ideas and the library staff agrees with them,” Rad said at the presentation.

Ortiz Dilone’s accomplishments were so impressive that Nader said he had to re-read the files “because I was thunderstruck with what she had done.”

An applied psychology major, Ortiz Dilone conducted research through the RAM program; one project examined Latinos perceptions of campus police and willingness to report crimes. Her research showed that Latino students are less likely to report crimes on campus because of their distrust of the police and uncertainty of how they will be perceived. FSC students’ perceptions of police were more positive if they were not Latino. After reading her research, Nader arranged a meeting between Ortiz Dilone and the campus police.

Another project involved determining police attitudes toward LGBTQ students and whether police should be present at Pride events.

This summer, Ortiz Dilone traveled to South Carolina to work with a student from the University of South Carolina researching how victim-related factors affected prosecutors’ summaries of domestic violence cases through the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. 

As impressive and inspiring as these efforts are, FSC always is looking to improve. “We’re taking steps to include diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice into the curriculum and looking at how we can become more diverse,” Nader said. “Don’t hesitate to celebrate when you have a chance. There will be bumps in the road. I recommend people use them as inspiration.”

FSC is an ideal place for reshaping and expanding thinking, said Jordan. The classic song “You Have to be Carefully Taught,” from the musical “South Pacific,” he noted, talks about how bias is learned, not inborn. “The stuff you come across that affects equity, diversity, and inclusion it’s what we’ve been taught,” he said.

“We’re an institution whose primary mission is teaching and learning,” Jordan continued. He noted the words of inspirational speaker Lailah Gifty Akita who said, “We must passionately learn, unlearn and relearn.” “FSC is not resistant to learning, unlearning, and relearning,” Jordan said. “That’s why we are here to celebrate.”