News from the Diversity and Inclusion team

South Africa native Madeleine Gonin shares some personal experiences and updates

Hello all! Mads here, the one with the untraceable accent. I have worked hard to cultivate my South African-Hoosier accent!

I was born and raised in South Africa and was in school during intense anti-apartheid protests. I finished high school a few months before we elected Nelson Mandela as president in our first democratic elections in 1994.

Apartheid laws were introduced in 1948; actually, the practices were already in place much earlier. These laws legalized discriminatory practices, including separating the population based on race, thereby governing where non-whites could live, work, and shop. The laws also determined which languages were used and taught in schools.

Collectively, these laws ensured that all wealth and opportunities to prosper were reserved for whites. While the dismantling of these laws started in 1990, I was never in a desegregated class since the upper classes were not desegregated because of fear of fighting between older pupils.

My background also taught me that humans are resilient, and that if we work together we can accomplish anything. The Zulu phrase, "Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" comes to mind. It means a person is a person through other people.

To give more context, whites only made up around 12 percent of the population in the early 1990s so, as you can imagine, keeping apartheid laws and structures in place required a lot of brutal tactics and rules. Denying almost 90 percent of your population access to education, housing, food, land, etc., has dire consequences for a country and its people.

Living through that and seeing a peaceful transition has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Seeing the long-term effects of apartheid policies on individuals, communities, and the country has been one of the greatest sadnesses of my life. Hearing stories of people who were actively and violently excluded from society and who were constantly facing new barriers is disheartening. More specifically, seeing what the denial of access to education for many generations does to a country is shocking.

Perhaps this is why I am passionate about helping IU provide access to quality education. Helping instructors create inclusive classes in which their students can thrive is one of my favorite parts of my job.

My background also taught me that humans are resilient, and that if we work together we can accomplish anything. The Zulu phrase, "Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" comes to mind. It means a person is a person through other people. It is also encapsulated in the word “ubuntu,” which translates to "I am, because you are," reflecting the importance of community, compassion, and humanity to help us all thrive.

This is what drew me to the ITLC Diversity & Inclusion Action Team. I want to help break down visible and invisible barriers for IT professionals and find ways to expand our community to be more inclusive. Imagine what we can accomplish when we invite diverse voices and perspectives into the IU IT community. We see our collective work influencing humanity every day, especially during this pandemic.

I know many colleagues have worked tirelessly to keep us as safe as possible, and continue to do so. Let’s continue to work together, build bridges, and create a compassionate community. 

Our current work

Miss our update at Statewide IT? You can watch the recorded presentation on Kaltura or review the presentation slides. Make sure you don’t miss UITS HR Director Joe Farrell’s demographic data presentation, too!

Share feedback or get involved.

Finally, some updates and requests from our priority leads:

  1. Building connections with community organizations to share our job ads further. Lead: Amy Starzynski Coddens. Volunteers: Jeannette Lehr, Jake George. Review our list of community organizations and share suggestions.
  2. Documenting and addressing challenges faced by immigrants in IT at IU. Lead: Megha Doshi. Volunteers: Gwendolyn Sams, Stephanie Cox, Madeleine Gonin. Are you an employee who immigrated? Share your story with us!
  3. Inclusive language and software design recommendations. Lead: Emily Oakes. Volunteers: Madeleine Gonin, Stephanie Cox, Jennifer Turrentine. Has there been a time when IU software made you feel excluded? Share your story with us!