May 21, 2013

Students advise diversity efforts

Administrators are moving forward with three key steps to increase diversity awareness on campus: the creation of a student advisory council on diversity, the launching of the RISE diversity awareness campaign, and the creation of a diversity fund. All three initiatives were announced in an April 24 e-mail by Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Karen Warren Coleman in the wake of controversy over the Facebook page Politically Incorrect Maroon Confessions.

Members of the Vice President’s Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion were informed of their selection last Monday, and the council had its first meeting on Wednesday. The council has about 15 student members from different ethnic and academic backgrounds, according to second-year Yusef al-Jarani, a member of the council.

While no set role has been established for the council, since it remains in its formative stages, first-year council member Vincente Perez said that he expects the council to be a tool through which students can make sure their input is heard by the administration.

“I just think [the council] is going to provide a voice to a lot of students who normally don’t get their voice heard, whether it’s in student government or other RSOs. This is going to be a direct link to the student body and the administration,” he said.

One effort already in development and in which the council is certain it will be involved in is the new RISE (Reflect, Intervene, Speak, Engage) campaign.

The campaign, still being fleshed out, will involve provocative posters showing minority students in stereotypical situations. The posters will be designed to provoke a response from students, sparking discussions on stereotyping and other forms of prejudice, and will advertise talks on diversity-related issues.

“This is a campaign where we’ll really be challenging students on campus, and then also backing that up with specific programming that talks about diversity and inclusion,” al-Jarani said.

The first of the talks—a discussion with former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien on “identity, community, and social responsibility”—will take place on May 28, according to the Campus and Student Life Web site.

Members discussed several other ideas at the Wednesday meeting, but one repeated suggestion was introducing changes to Orientation Week programming.

“There’s a lot of things that are thrown around during O-Week, but diversity isn’t tackled as much as we would like to see,” al-Jarani said.

One idea to remedy this was collecting stories from current students from diverse backgrounds and then and giving them to incoming students to read and discuss during O-week, “to really challenge students on this question of diversity and what does it mean,” al-Jarani said.

In addition to those two initiatives, the administration has announced some details behind the Diversity: Engage-Learn-Transform Fund. The Fund’s goal will be to encourage “the expression of diverse perspectives on campus by helping to support initiatives, programs, and events that intentionally bring together diverse groups and community members,” according to an e-mail from University spokesman Jeremy Manier.

The Fund will be open to students, faculty, and staff and all applications will be reviewed by Warren Coleman “or her designee,” Manier said.