The Office of Multicultural Affairs may have been dismembered, but a student coalition, the FIGHT, is seeking student support to preserve diversity.
It is expected that during a recession, cuts will be made. The degree to which the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Center for Social Justice and Multicultural Education received cuts, however, is appalling.
In Fall 2005, former Temple President David Adamany hired Rhonda Brown as OMCA Director. The office slowly built momentum in the next three years, hiring Tchet Dorman as director of Student Support Services and created programs such as the Philadelphia Diamond Scholars to help Temple student retention by partnering Philadelphia students with Temple upperclassmen.
OMCA was moved to a spacious location, equipped with a training room and conference room in the lower level of Mitten Hall.
The office served as the spot for planning meetings for both Latino Heritage and African-American Heritage months, and the CSJME launched an OMCA service component, headed by Carl Moore and Walidah Justice. CSJME created and trained students for the Owl Pal Mentor Program. Shortly thereafter, on May 22, 2009, CSJME staff was told the university was downsizing and the office was being eliminated, in addition to OMCA no longer having the capacity to work with students.
Upset by the crippling of OMCA and the elimination of CSJME, students banded together to form “The FIGHT…A Coalition of Concerned TU Students.” This student-led coalition is a combined effort from several student organizations passionate about the issue, including the Progressive NAACP, Student Peace Alliance, Black Student Union, Students for Environmental Action and a multitude of others. The coalition’s goals are to get OMCA and CSJME reinstated and to get Student Affairs and Student Activities to have student inclusion in decisions that affect student programming.
“We have been really dedicated to trying to get representatives from at least the 25 organizations that used to work with OMCA/CSJME,” President of Progressive NAACP Jessica Reed said, adding they have accomplished half their goal.
Reed, a senior philosophy and human resource management major, is one of the few students spearheading the coalition.
Students from the FIGHT are dealing with a huge issue. Up against university officials, they are fighting to be part of a decision they should have been more involved with in the first place.
“I believe that all programs within every university lost funding in one of their dimensions or another,” Reed said. “Multicultural- and diversity-related cuts affect all student causes and services, from the Greeks and athletics to the LGBT, ethnic groups and even political-oriented groups.”
I am baffled as to why more students are not aligning themselves with the FIGHT. Reed said student forums have had varied attendance of some 15 to 20 people. More students need to trade in their apathy and take action.
Temple isn’t the only university experiencing cuts in diversity programming. At the third student forum for the FIGHT, it was announced that universities nationwide, including the University of Maryland and University of California-Santa Barbara, are experiencing similar hardships. Maryland’s Cordell Black, associate provost for equity and diversity, was fired recently, and according to the Washington Post, students feared it was a sign the school is becoming hands-off about maintaining diversity.
Students at U-Md. were so incensed by the firing of Black they marched to the administration building by the hundreds. The Washington Post called it the “largest demonstration at [U-Md.’s] College Park campus since the Vietnam War era.”
I fear the coalition here at Temple won’t make as much commotion if students don’t start realizing these services are being dismembered and placed in the hands of other departments, which are probably still adjusting to changes themselves.
Reed said the coalition is going to conduct surveys geared toward the student body.
“We need to see where our target audience is in terms of awareness and concern,” Reed said. “Ultimately our goal is to educate, not overwhelm.”
When you hear someone trying to administer this survey, participate. Get involved with the FIGHT, or contact administrators to let them know how absurd it is to cut a cornerstone that ensured Temple’s diversity.
But don’t wait until it reaches the point that when you finally want to take action, it’s too late.
As Reed said: “We want to be aware of our time because we don’t want the issue to die down.”
Joshua Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.