September 18, 2010


The admissions office strives to select a group of students with varying backgrounds, tastes, and values. Accordingly, the campus has a long list of cultural resources catering to all students, whether from small-town U.S.A. or the chaotic streets of Beijing.

Diversity at the U of C is ubiquitous, something that quickly becomes apparent when people start talking. In the classroom, at the dining hall, in the house lounge: Wherever there is conversation to be had, you can hear different, and frequently opposing, opinions on whatever subject is at hand. The University prides itself on its emphasis on discussion, and, as declared in President Zimmer’s Diversity Statement, “a commitment to diversity is central to our mission of discovery.”

A diverse student body also leads to a campus chockful of cultural and ethnic organizations ready to educate, and entertain. The University’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA) offers programming, study space, and a place to just hang out and watch cable with other students in its 5710 South Woodlawn Avenue office.

Nearly every religion, ethnicity, or any other group you can think of has an RSO. Many of these student organizations host free study breaks around campus where you can pick up free food (which can range from pizza to fried plantains to samosas), sign up for their listhost, and sometimes catch a movie or hear a speaker.

Many of these RSOs host a yearly cultural show. The Organization of Black Students (OBS) and South Asian Students Association (SASA) put on some of the biggest, with hundreds of students getting involved and attending. These cultural RSOs are also dedicated to more serious matters. All of them strive to help spread awareness about their customs and address pressing concerns within their community. For example, El Movimiento Estudiantil de Chicano de Aztlan (MeCha) holds a Cesar Chavez keynote speech each year to discuss Latin American issues. Many students join RSOs to strengthen their cultural identity or to stay close to their roots.

“I joined ACSA [African and Carribean Students Association] because it catered to the African and Caribbean identity—notice I didn’t say people or group,” third-year Dottie Mangale said. “It was a forum where I knew certain obscure things about who I am would be understood immediately without having to answer too many questions.”

Providing a familiar and supportive group of individuals is a goal that campus gay and lesbian organizations also strive towards. The Office of LGBTQ Student Life, which shares office space with OMSA, keeps students informed on campus and city-wide events relating to the gay community, along with hosting some of their own. This autumn they will hold a panel discussion entitled Queer 101 to discuss queer life at the U of C.

The Office of LGBTQ Student Life also collaborates with the numerous LGBTQ RSOs, such as QueeReligious and Gays and Lesbians in Business. The largest of such organizations is Queers and Associates (Q&A). Besides being a center for activism and progress (they backed the gender-neutral housing option now available), they also sponsor Pride Week each spring, which is celebrated with musical performances, panel discussions, and other fun and educational events. The highlight of Pride is Genderfuck, which encourages costumes and involved a performance last year by local drag queens.

While it’s likely that you, your housemates, or your classmates won’t have exactly the same upbringing and beliefs, no matter who you are or where you come from, you’re likely to find a campus organization that will cure your homesickness or curiosity.