“DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND BELONGING”: A look into the shortcomings of Eastern University’s diversity initiative.

The Diversity and Inclusion Planning Initiative was created in 2016 to respond to an analysis which determined the racial makeup of the EU workforce had been steadily declining from 2010 to 2015. The analysis specifically cited university leadership as lacking in racial, ethnic, and gender diversity.
The initiative, charged by former President Robert Duffett and led by former Executive Vice President, Tom Ridington, was recommended to address the widening gap between the diversity of Eastern’s student body and those who teach and serve our students.

The initiative was followed in 2017 by a report predicting why Eastern has a low number of faculty, staff, and leadership of color, followed by a proposal for how to achieve changes in the area of diversity and inclusion.

An excerpt from the report concludes the low number of people of color at Eastern “is likely symptomatic of deeper causes emanating from policies and practices that fail to reflect the standards of community life found in Eastern University’s institutional commitments,” adding that “Hiring based on personal networks, rather than posted openings, frustrates those outside of existing power relationships from opportunities to advance their career.” The proposal recommended an institutional audit conducted by an external organization and creation of the position of Chief Diversity Officer to respond to this inequity.

In September 2017, after commitments and training to diversify, the University filled six dean’s level and above positions, with all white and mostly male persons. In response, the Concerned Black Staff and Faculty wrote a letter of concern to President Robert Duffett urging him to examine and change the University culture, and tenure and hiring practices. Multiple meetings and letters later, the same practices continue in 2020.

This summer the Anti-Racism Initiative was created by a group of students including a letter and list of expectations for Eastern to make strides toward anti-racism, alongside a petition which gathered the support of over 700 students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff. In response to this, and to the previous proposals and recommendations, sitting President Ronald Matthews appointed Dr. Randolph Walters as a part-time Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging.

The special assistant was appointed by the President, as opposed to the open process that was recommended in the proposal by the broader study of effective collegiate diversity. The proposal additionally recommended the position of Chief Diversity Officer, a position virtually identical to Dr. Randolph Walter’s new job description. Instead, Special Assistant to the President suggests a consultative role, while upholding the same job description as the full time position of Chief Diversity Officer.

In an attempt to better understand this issue, I consulted Dr. Kathy-Ann Hernandez, a professor at Eastern whose ongoing scholarship and research for a book she co-edited, Diversity Matters, focused specifically on the Black Diaspora in Christian higher education. Hernandez says “My continued work in the area of diversity and inclusion convinces me that ultimately D & I work is about disrupting
‘cultural lock-in’. This term refers to ‘the gradual stiffening of the invisible architecture of the corporation’ that results in ‘the ossification of its decision-making abilities, control systems, and mental models’ (Foster & Kaplan, 2001, p.16).”

Hernandez adds, “Even with the best strategies and policies for going forward, if we do not first do the work that is necessary to first identify the culture that is at work here and then seek to change it, we are treating the symptom rather than the cause.”

This observation directly addresses the procedural failures of Eastern University in appointing the role of Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Equity, and Belonging. Dr. Hernandez concluded, “I view the processes by which this appointment was made as a serious misstep on the path to creating a truly inclusive and equitable EU campus community. This was an opportunity to disrupt the status quo of how things are ‘done at EU’ and to make room at the table for more voices to be part of the process. Now more than ever given the zeitgeist, institutions that continue to make such decisions from positions of privilege and power, do so at their own detriment.”

Eastern University’s honorable goal of increasing diversity, inclusivity, and belonging for staff, faculty, and students of color by creating this position was well intentioned and certainly needed. However, their aim will ultimately be hindered by upholding the normative procedures and practices which inhibit diversity and inclusion. For Eastern to take effective and sustainable steps toward diversity, equity, and belonging they must reconsider the procedures which ultimately inhibit these ambitions and heed the recommendations given by the Eastern community.

New Gym Hours: A look at some student’s takes on the updates in the fitness center.

The new gym hours at Eastern University have sparked some frustration among the student body. The gym is open to athletes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekends and open to all non-athlete students from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.

“It disappoints me that the gym isn’t open anymore in the morning. It is the perfect way to start a productive day,” EU student, Myles Allen says. Myles is not alone in this sentiment; many other students also feel this way. To many students who are not a part of sports teams, this is seen as an inconvenience; not being able to work out until later in the afternoon disrupts the day’s agenda for many students. While not one that sparks any intense emotion, the reasonable point of the expense of tuition for the average student usually is mentioned during these conversations, with many claiming that Eastern charges too much to not allow the gym to be used by the rest of the student body during the early hours of the day.

However, many students still feel as though these hours are better compared to the gym situation last year had to offer. In order to go to the gym, a student first had to reserve a time for his or herself to go, and even then, a student could only stay for 50 minutes at a time. Due to this change, students felt disincentivized to go to the gym, feeling that there were too many constraints put on gym attendance. Despite the inconveniences of last semester and the odd gym hours that this semester has to offer, the gym hours still are able to give more of an incentive to go than last semester.

Despite the inconvenience of not being able to go in the earlier hours in the day, students are still more happy with the odd hours that the gym has to offer this semester than the reservation of the last. The gym is a place that many students feel as though should not be restricted due to athlete’s routine workouts, although many sympathize with the sentiment of allowing the athletes to have full access to the gym at specific times during the day. In either case, students are ultimately disappointed with their lack of opportunity to work out at the gym during the earlier hours of the day but are happy to finally not have to reserve a time slot to be able to go to the gym.

The People’s Champion: Nearly half a century after his untimely death, we owe Roberto Clemente Walker an eternal debt of gratitude for being a towering inspiration to us all.

The evening of Dec. 31, 1972 not only changed the world of Major League Baseball, it would also be the source of inspiration and heartache for generations of baseball players, particularly those born in Latin-American countries. That fateful evening, Roberto Clemente, right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, would lose his life after a plane stocked with medicine and aid packages chartered for Nicaragua crashed off the coast of San Juan.

Clemente, undoubtedly among the greatest to ever play the game of baseball, is fondly remembered for his powerful defensive presence on the field, as well as his activism in favor of Civil Rights and his charity work apart from the game. Most importantly, however, he was – and remains – the pride of Puerto Rico.

First signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers, Clemente was sent to the Montreal Royals (Triple A affiliate at the time), where he was mostly shelved despite his defensive and batting prowess, in an effort to keep him from being drafted. After moving to Pittsburgh, he was subject to ridicule by peers and the American press, with his accent being the butt of endless jokes. He was often called lazy for complaining about his chronic back pain and criticized when he took credit for leading his team to victory. Throughout an 18-year career, Clemente was under-appreciated by writers, owing to his race and ethnicity. In the end, as in all tragic plays, the world saw greatness before its eyes and did not realize it until the hero was no more.

Clemente’s life remains, to this day, the representation of what it means to be Hispanic in America. The values we bring to this great nation – hard work and personal responsibility – values America claims to embrace, are oftentimes met with dismissiveness. Our desire to integrate into society is met with jokes aimed at our accent and pattern of speech. The significance our collective culture has in our lives and communities is met with indifference.

Today, Major League Baseball celebrates Roberto Clemente’s life and contributions with a humanitarian award and a league-wide celebration in the month of September. Hundreds of schools across the country are named after the Puerto Rican legend. Nearly half a century after his untimely death, we owe Roberto Clemente Walker an eternal debt of gratitude, if anything else, for his choice to endure so much discrimination. Because of this, in due time, a child from even the poorest community could have the chance to walk the ground he broke. We owe Clemente a debt of gratitude for being a towering inspiration to us all.

Some of Sports’ Most Heated Rivalries: A look at two of the biggest rivalries in professional sports.

Rivalries are part of what makes sports so entertaining. Whether you follow a professional sports team or you rep your school spirit as they take on a heated rival, rivalry games always bring an extra flare. Some rivalries are born out of being placed in the same division, others are from playoff losses or off-field history between players and coaches. Regardless, rivalries can bring out the very best in teams, and two of the best examples of this are the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Boston Celtics and the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Baltimore Ravens. 

One of the most legendary rivalries is the rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. The two teams have faced off in the NBA Finals on 12 occasions dating back to 1959, when the Lakers were the then “Minneapolis Lakers.”  There was a gap between 1969 and 1984 where the Lakers and Celtics didn’t meet in the Finals, but they have since played five series against each other. The Lakers have won three of the five matchups beginning in 1984, including the 2010 Finals, which went the distance of seven games. The 2010 NBA Finals was the last championship that the late Kobe Bryant won, and he put up 28.6 points per game. 

In the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens are two divisional rivals with a back-and-forth history. The two teams are generally competitive and usually in the playoff race, but the Steelers currently lead the all-time series 30-24. The Steelers have won the last two matchups in 2020, but the Ravens swept the series in 2019, including an overtime victory on a walk-off 46-yard Justin Tucker field goal. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is 15-10 in the regular season and 2-1 in the postseason in his career against the Ravens. Despite having a winning record against the Ravens, his statistics take a dip against the same team. In his career, Roethlisberger has a passer rating of 93.9 while posting a rating of 85.3 against the Ravens. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is technically 2-2 thus far into his short career as the Baltimore signal-caller, though he has only started two of those games and is 1-1. The Steelers and the Ravens don’t face off this year until Week 13 before they close out their seasons in Baltimore for their second matchup. Knowing the AFC North, the Week 18 game could have the teams’ playoff hopes up for grabs. 

With the NFL season in full swing, the MLB postseason coming up and the NBA starting up again soon, get ready to sit back and watch some great rivalry games unfold.

Sources: Basketball Reference, The Football Database, Land of Basketball, Pro Football Reference

Coach’s Corner: A moment with Eastern University’s new track and field coach William Mills.

Coach William Mills has had a long tenure as a track and field coach. He has over 14 years of experience as a head coach with over five years as a coach on the collegiate level. He first began working for his high school as a coach for eight years before becoming the head coach of Thiel College. Now he is the new head coach of Eastern University’s track and field team.

Coach Mills began his track career as a football player. He had impressive speed and was recommended to try track and field to enhance his football speed. After having great success in track, Coach Mills officially switched over from football to track. His love and passion for the sport ultimately led to him becoming a head coach.

When asked “Why Eastern?” Coach Mills explained that it was a great opportunity. He had recently gotten married over the summer and a change of scenery was much needed. Eastern offered a bigger administration role to him and allowed for a better work-life balance. Eastern is close enough to the city of Philadelphia, and the track and field team was seeking success for a new team. Previously, his wife had a long commute from home to work, and a new environment was not only exciting but convenient for them.

I asked him about the state of the team, and he said they are doing great. The team is showing up and getting workouts done. That’s almost everything he can ask for. Coach Mills explained that his main focus is changing the current culture of the team. Having fun with track and field is his biggest priority as of now. “Many coaches come to teams and only worry about winning. For me, I’d rather let my personality shine and help make the sport fun for the team. That is when the winning will come,” Coach Mills said. 

I finally asked the hard-hitting question in regards to his position. The final question asked was, “How does it feel to be the fourth track and field head coach in the last four years?” He responded by stating his day-to-day motto. The motto of Coach Mills is A.T.C., which stands for Accept The Challenge. Coach Mills went on to talk about how we as people face life’s challenges is what determines our character. He said he is willing to stand with the team and face any challenge that comes. He is determined to stay and help develop our athletes into better athletes, people and students.

Is it really the Sweetest Place on Earth?: Hershey’s Chocolate’s poor response to child labor allegations.

Hershey Chocolate Factory is one of the most famous candy manufacturers in the world. Between the park and the factory, Hershey’s name is known throughout the globe. Although this huge company seems to be a family friendly place, there have been allegations of child labor in the Ivory Coast in some of the cocoa plantations. Oliver Balch, a reporter for The Guardian, has said that eight children have come forward and claimed they were used for slave labor at these plants.

“Ivory Coast produces 45% of the global chocolate supply”, says Balch, “the production of cocoa in West Africa has been linked to human rights abuses….and child labor.” Hershey has promised to review its labor laws, but has not said anything else on it.

Hershey Chocolate Factory should own up to its abuse of children in their factories overseas. The low wage and harsh working conditions these children face should not go unnoticed. According to Bob Fernandez, a reporter for the Tribune News Service, Hershey was asked to join in regulating child labor in 2020, but it is still unknown whether they support this deal in Washington or not.

A huge company like Hershey has the power to influence other companies using child labor, if Hershey itself did. Ignoring this will only let the problem continue. Hershey Chocolate Factory needs to be held accountable for its action, rather than to let it continue. Hershey and other chocolate factories had made a pledge two decades ago to stop using child labor, but as of 2020, the use of child labor continues. Peter Whoriskey and Rachel Sigel, two reporters for the Washington Post, point out that Hershey is unable to identify which of their factories uses child labor. 

Not being able to identify which factories are using child labor reflects poorly on the company. It can be hard to keep track of 17 different factories across the globe but when it comes to child labor, they should be inspecting and reinspecting all those factories overseas. Hershey has said they want to get rid of their child labor, but have not taken serious, legal action in order for that to happen. It is easy to say that they are taking steps towards this but it is another thing to  act.

Ions speak louder than words, so Hershey should take steps to ensure that they will make sure child labor will be no more in their overseas factories and not just say they are trying to eliminate it. 

The Hershey website has put out a section dedicated to the child labor laws overseas, but it says that it is a “complex issue” and that no children have been forced to work in their cocoa plants. 

The lawsuit Herhsey faces as of February 2021 says differently. Hershey says they are monitoring these accusations, but has told the media they are not sure which plants are using child labor. The rest of this section goes on to talk about the diversity Hershey will have in employment and the education the children overseas will receive in the year 2025. It quickly glances over the problem at hand and goes straight into how Hershey Chocolate Factory will have more representation in the workplace, which is good, however this is not the issue at hand.

The rest of this page goes on to talk about providing the children in their overseas factories with schooling in order to combat this child labor crisis but without knowing which factories are practicing child labor, it is hard to put those childern into the classroom. Hershey’s company says they will have these resolved by 2025, but they are not investigating the plants that are using children to harvest their cocoa beans. 

This company needs to take action now, rather than have a four year plan to stop it. Children are being forced into terrible work environments. They are missing out on being children and are forced into being adults. Hershey and many other factories should re-evaluate how their products are made overseas and take action now rather than wait when it comes to child labor. 

Sources: Hershey Chocolate Factory, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Tribune News Service 

President Biden’s Vaccine Mandate: A student shares why a vaccine mandate might not be the best choice.

On September 10, President Biden announced new measures to battle Covid 19. The Department of Labor will develop a new emergency rule requiring all federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated, as well as workers at any healthcare facility that receives Medicare or Medicaid. In addition to this, every company with over 100 employees is required to mandate vaccinations or test unvaccinated employees weekly.

There was an immediate backlash to these mandates; 24 states and the Republican party have threatened to sue if the mandates were implemented. In addition, countless other organizations have expressed disapproval as well. These groups claim the mandate violates both employees and employers’ freedom. But to understand if these mandates really are infringing on people’s freedom, it may be helpful to look at the reason for the mandate. On September 10th President Biden stated the reason, “The bottom line — we’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers.”

What does it mean to protect vaccinated individuals from unvaccinated individuals? If a vaccine is fully effective, why would an unvaccinated person pose a risk to a vaccinated person? According to the CDC, “COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick.” If vaccines are “effective”, what does a vaccinated person have to fear? According to scientists, variants, such as the Delta variant, originate as the virus gets spread around from person to person. In an article in Healthline magazine, Dr. Purvi Parikh said, “If everyone is vaccinated, eventually infections drop to zero and so do variants, but if the virus has an easy host, such as an unvaccinated individual, then it is easy for it to mutate into a more contagious and virulent form.”

The logic is, that if people are not vaccinated a virus can mutate into being more deadly or contagious as they spread it around. A virus becoming more contagious is not necessarily an issue, what should be a worry, is it becoming more harmful. Some viruses actually become less harmful. The 1918 influenza pandemic mutated into one of the strands of the common flu we have today. Why do we not seem to be worried about the flu mutating into something more deadly?

For many people, the vaccine makes a lot of sense, especially for the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions for whom Covid-19 can be very dangerous. But if you are under the age of forty, you have a .04% chance of dying of Covid, and the younger and healthier you are, your chances of getting sick decrease dramatically. For people in these categories, a vaccine barely seems necessary, especially with many warnings from doctors about the insufficient testing of the vaccine, and the rare but dangerous side effects, such as blood clots.

         I don’t pretend to be a doctor.  But here is the point I want to make. With so much conflicting data and opinions, personal choice is essential. Medical professionals should be allowed to share their opinions on Covid. Hospitals should be allowed to offer alternative cures. Patients should be allowed to choose treatment. Employers should be allowed to decide the rules for how to keep their employees safe. And employees should then be able to make their decision and negotiate with their employer. President Biden’s mandate, however well intended, will eliminate the freedoms of both employers and employees. The more we limit freedom, the more science, which operates on the basis of freedom, will be suppressed. If we allow that, we will become controlled by the whims of power-hungry individuals, and an ever-growing government. 

Faith & Science, United in Awe: Notes on Eastern’s First Annual Science and Faith Symposium

On Friday, Oct. 1, Palmer’s First Annual Science and Faith Symposium began. Reverend Zack Jackson welcomed everyone, thanking everyone who made this event possible, especially DoSER, who provided the grant for the program, and Dr. Ron Matthews, Eastern’s president, echoed those thanks and led the room in prayer. 

Eliazer Morales presented his paper on science as a means of worship and recognizing the diversity of worship methods in a congregation. He wrote, “Not every practice in the church must be done the same way, especially when it comes to worship” and that “Taking care of God’s creation by knowing how it functions is another form of worship”. 

The first panel included three professionals in science and religion: Dr. David Bradstreet, an astronomer and professor at Easter, Dr. Peter Enns, a Biblical Studies professor, and Dr. Jonathan Hargis, who is also an astronomer. When Jackson inquired about the  ways your understanding of the cosmos have influenced your theology, Bradstreet replied,“God didn’t just make stuff, he makes it work all the time”and that “science is really the discovery of how God does what He does”. When Enns replied, he focused on how science makes him understand how big God really is, referencing the speed of light. “How can it not affect our theology?” Enns asked. Lastly, Hargis answered, saying, “astronomy gives us this huge sense of awe and wonder of who God is, and it comes with a huge sense of humility”. The panelists also gave inspiring answers regarding interpreting Scripture regarding creation, resistance in faith communities to what scientists are saying, and how finding life outside of Earth would affect our theology.

The keynote speaker on Friday was Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, author, astrophysicist, and director of DoSER. She spoke about her journey to becoming a scientist, saying, “it was my early years of ambling through meadows and exploring streams and loving animals that made me a scientist. If you love nature, then you love science”. The majority of her presentation focused on the tools of science and that way that science touches every part of our lives. 

On Saturday morning, Eastern student Laura Schoenhals read her paper on medicine and faith via video. One particularly meaningful quote stood out to the author: “even when disease reigns supreme for now, still we have hope that ultimately, our Great Physician shall heal not only us and our loved ones, but creation in its entirety.”

Afterwards, the second set of panelists spoke, consisting of Dr. Jennifer Stuart, Rev. Casey Bien-Aime, and Sally Stern. All the panelists spoke about the importance of holistic medicine and were especially salient in discussing how science does not operate in a vacuum. Stern said, “nursing is an art and a science together: the art of compassion and care and the science of using evidence-based practice in your care of them.” Stuart also addresses the “very real history” of African-American distrust of medicine due to trauma and how that impacts her work with congregations on science training. Bien-Aime, speaking from her experience as a hospital chaplain, spoke about the pain she has seen in hospitals, especially in the last eighteen months.

The second speaker, Dr. Devan Stahl, focused her presentation on her experience as a theological bioethicist and especially how we integrate ideas of miracles in the medical community. She explains that people use miracle terminology differently and it’s important to acknowledge that to discern how to respond to people using miracle language. “I worry that our clergy is not talking about these issues enough,” Stahl said.

There was another afternoon set of panels and speakers, but this author was unable to attend. For readers interested in more information, check out Palmer’s website to watch the fully recorded sessions.

Club Feature: Meet Blaze step team!

Eastern’s step team Blaze, like many of the dance clubs,  has had an extra long hiatus than most other clubs on campus due to the recent pandemic.

The Blaze Step Team is a student organization which encourages participation, raises student morale, and enthusiasm, all through the art of step-dancing. 

The process of joining Blaze Step Team involves an audition process, and requires a genuine interest in commitment to the team. 

Blaze Step Team has been a club for almost 7 years at Eastern, refreshing each year with more members and more shining faces on the team. The club is run by three leaders, Senior Psychology major and Club President Tia Walters, Senior Psychology major and Captain Marissa Mack, and Senior Psychology major and club Vice President Kysha Nyambura

Blaze works to showcase the art of step both on and off campus, they also engage in team bondings, host mental health check-ins for members and even participate in competitions. 

“Our sole purpose is to contribute to the growing diversity element of the campus. Blaze intends to promote school spirit through steps in order to enrich the lives of upcoming Eastern University students.” said Blaze Leadership. “We strive to support, encourage, motivate, and inspire one another. The team contributes to the EU community by offering diversity, mentorship, and an exciting form of dance, bringing innovative experiences onto campus.” 

Blaze has five goals they hope to achieve through this current school year: creating a family for their members on campus; gaining more general recognition and acknowledgment from Eastern; being able to perform on and off campus; hosting successful fundraising for the club; and hosting a big step show in the spring that students will be able to attend and enjoy.

If you’re unsure if Blaze is the club for you, “Blaze is open to any and everybody! We will host additional auditions in the Spring. It doesn’t matter who you are or if you have dance or step experience. We welcome you to join our family – a growing brotherhood and sisterhood” said Blaze leadership.

The team meets twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m.

One Day, Two Plays: An member of the 24 hour play workshop chronicles her experience!

On September 17th at 7:00pm, eight theater-loving students and alumni, along with a helper and the production team, joined to create, write, memorize, and block two short ten to fifteen minute plays. 24 hours later, they performed both these plays to a live and virtual audience. These twenty-four hours were filled with chaos, creativity, and comradery, both as a whole, and within the groups that created each play.

I was a member of one of these groups and would love to share some of the experience with you. After some acting warm ups and games, the eight of us who signed up were split into two groups of a writer, director, and two actors. Then each group headed off to come up with a story from scratch, and find ways to include some strange and curious props in the process.

My group sat down and started throwing around ideas, while also trying to figure out how to include a watering can, a book, an old clock, and a metal bin in our story. After a bit of discussion, the idea of fairy tales and storytelling became ingrained in our fledgeling play, and there was no turning back. Magic relics quickly swallowed up our everyday props, from the Chalice of Ultimate Power… and Destiny, to the great viking warrior Rafthormoryor’s stump gauntlet (AKA the bin). A plot built slowly yet surely around these concepts, until before midnight we had the start of a script.

In the middle of this wonderful creation, each role—directors, writers, and actors—was called away for a special session to learn tips of the trade. After the sessions finished, each person returned to their groups. Soon some short—and rather messy—run-throughs of the plays commenced on stage before we each returned to our groups’ rooms, and some of us fell asleep. 

By morning, the scripts were complete and the process of final blocking and memorization began. We had about ten hours left. With breaks for food, and also rest for the mind body, we work our way to confident skill with our plays. 

Finally, we all gathered in the auditorium for the final rehearsal. This was the first time the groups had the opportunity to see each other perform. They blew each other away. I know for me sitting there watching the other group perform, I was left stunned, wondering how they had created this masterpiece in under 24 hours. Additionally, the producers also created and put on a fantastic skit of their own that we all enjoyed. After that, all we had left to do was wait, and double check our lines.

At long last, 7:00pm on September 18th rolled around, and we found ourselves in a dark auditorium with people there to view us. We climbed on stage, the spotlights turned on, and it was time.

I could describe the details of the fantastic performances put on that night. Or I could let you go watch it on the Eastern Fine and Performing Arts Facebook page. It is available freely to any who want to watch it, and I highly recommend you do. I’ve been told it was fun to watch, and it certainly was a blast to act in!

I bet you can guess what all of us involved in the project did once the lights came back on and the show was done. 

We went home and slept. 

Diving Into Dante’s “Divine Comedy”: A look at the world-wide “100 Days” event with the medieval Florentine poet.

“Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself…” in a college dorm room watching a video lecture about Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Yes, these haunting, yet compelling opening lines are from Dante’s “Inferno”—minus the college dorm room part.

Baylor University’s Honors College has partnered with Eastern’s Templeton Honors College and other schools across the country to bring fans of the “Divine Comedy” together. Self-proclaimed as “the world’s largest Dante reading group,” 100 Days of Dante is bringing readers of the 1300s poet together for a 100 day journey through the classical narrative. The project also includes schools such as the University of Dallas, Gonzaga University, Biola University and Whitworth University.

From Sept. 8, 2021 to Easter 2022, various teachers passionate about the “Comedy” will provide lectures for each canto in “Inferno,” “Purgatorio,” and “Paradiso.” They are covering three cantos a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) with videos to complement each one. Readers are encouraged to enjoy the cantos of the “Divine Comedy” at their own pace, watching the videos when and if needed.

“For our project, we decided to move at a slightly slower pace, hopefully to allow everyone more time to enjoy reading each canto,” Hilary Yancey, 100 Days of Dante Project Manager, said in an intro video by Baylor Honors College.

Along with providing ways to access the videos, 100 Days of Dante also has a translation of the text on their website. This makes reading the “Comedy” even more accessible if you don’t have a copy or don’t want to buy one. However, if you prefer a certain translation (I’m reading the Mark Musa, Penguin Classics translation), you are encouraged to read what you are comfortable with and will enjoy.

Eastern’s Templeton Honors College has been asked to take part in the 100 day event, with various professors asked to contribute canto videos to walk readers through interpretations of the text. For many, this is a chance to revisit the classic poem not only with one professor, but with several.

“If you or anyone has wanted to (re)read the “Comedy” and be taken through it by thoughtful guides (like Mr. P, Dr. Cary, Dr. Smith, Dr. Boyer, Dr. Anika Prather, etc.), now is your chance,” Dr. Williams, Dean of Templeton Honors College, said in his “Dean’s Weekly” email sent to members of the college.

Gaining insight from professors of different schools is a valuable experience as well. Dr. Ralph Wood, Dr. Fred Sanders, Dr. Jane Kim and Dr. Theresa Kenney are some of the other guides that were highlighted thus far.

If you are interested, you can subscribe to the “100 Days of Dante” email list, where you will receive Canto videos every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 100daysofdante.com has a “subscribe” button that pops up after the “Welcome” screen as soon as you enter the site. If you want to watch the videos through their website, they are all archived as each video comes out.

It’s never too late to begin reading the “Divine Comedy” and follow along with the videos. The cantos are short and easy to read, and the flexible structure of 100 Days of Dante makes catching up a breeze. “Abandon every hope, all you who enter” this dark and mysterious Inferno, and read some Dante!

Sources: Baylor Honors College, “Dean’s Weekly,” The Divine Comedy (Penguin Classics), 100 Days of Dante