Temple embraced the title “Diversity University” after being ranked No. 2 in a list of the most diverse student populations in the Princeton Review’s 2006 edition of “The Best 361 Colleges.”
Despite the ranking, students complained last Tuesday that segregation exists among campus organizations at the first program in the Diversity Dialogues Series, a four-part discussion hosted this semester by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Temple Student Government Diversity Affairs Committee and Multicultural Student Union.
The effort is a partnership between the OMCA and TSG to bring students together and create a more unified campus.
“Everybody stays in their own group,” said Rachel Ademola, president of the Organization of African Students. For some, examples of these divisions are blatant. In November, a Hardwick Hall employee found red swastikas scribbled on the first and second floor stairwells.
“People have been talking about Temple not having a lot of interactional diversity,” said Tchet Dorman, the director of Student Support Services for the OMCA. “The ultimate goal is to help students learn about and how to embrace people who are different from them.”
The series kicked off last Tuesday with the program “Leadership Excellence Acknowledges Diversimilarity” where students discussed ways to unite student organizations. Each meeting will have its own theme that focuses on building unity among the student body.
“The problem with diversity is that it creates an ‘us and them’ dichotomy,” said Brian Johnson, director of Multicultural Affairs at Susquehanna University.
Johnson was one of the speakers invited to lead the discussion on ways to bridge the gaps between student organizations.
“The key is finding the places – even across our differences – where we can meet. Reach out with what you know,” Johnson said. Johnson was joined by Caro Mercado,
assistant dean of Student Life at Susquehanna University, who challenged the student leaders to take an active role in bringing about change.
“Change on a campus this size is going to take a long time,” Mercado said. “What are you as student leaders doing to begin to break out of the little boxes?”
Inspired by the Central Pennsylvania Social Justice Retreat, an annual week long conference on diversity, Dike Kalu, chair of TSG Diversity Affairs and Brian Washington, co-chair of the Multicultural Student Union, assessed Temple’s strengths and weaknesses in regards to diversity.
Both were instrumental in organizing the series. “The ultimate goal is to get students to feel like they’re in the same community,” Kalu said. But about 20 student leaders out of more than 150 registered student organizations were in attendance. Lackluster attendance was partly attributed
to scant advertisement.
In an effort to pique student interest, the OMCA is offering 50 Diamond Dollars to any student organization that sends at least one representative to two of the four workshops. Dorman said the 50 Diamond Dollars is part of an incentive to engage students.
“I thought it would be a good way to use the funds to make sure students are really
engaging in the dialogue,” Dorman said.
“Our office is new so we need to find as many ways to reach out to students and promote the program as much as possible.”
In spite of the program’s low participation, attendees remained optimistic.
“I thought the program was beneficial to the leaders that showed up,” said Dike Uzoukwu, a junior film and media arts major and member of the TSG Division of Student Affairs Committee. [The series] could change the way people act with each other on campus.”
Freshman journalism major Kym Bays said she thought the meeting was effective.
“I hope to get more involved with Diversity
Affairs and promote cultural awareness.
The biggest thing is to learn to promote our similarities,” she said. Although students like Bays embrace the diversity, Tom Gallowitz said it is also a hindrance.
“Diversity is becoming a weakness at Temple,” said junior political science major Tom Gallowitz, adding that when students see something they do not identify with, they tend to brush it off. Gallowitz, a member of Owls for Life, the Student Life Committee and the Diversity Affairs Committee, also said he believes students
are more similar than they think.
In addition to the Diversity Dialogue Series, the OMCA in conjunction with TSG’s Diversity Affairs Committee and Multicultural Student Union, will be hosting a Unity Week in March.
Renita Burns can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.