Two separate incidents at the university last year started a dialogue among students about multiculturalism.
Last fall, a Jewish student was assaulted at Temple Fest, and in the spring a Delta Zeta sorority member used a racial slur during the Greek Olympics.
To promote a more tolerant and united campus, Dr. Carmen Phelps, head of the university’s Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership, created the Student Advisory Coalition for Multi/Intercultural and Social Justice Programming last spring.
Student coalition members worked with Phelps during the summer to set objectives and brainstorm programming ideas, which are set to be unveiled to the Temple community at the coalition’s meet and greet kick-off event tonight from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in “The Burrow,” located at 2026 N. Broad St.
“The kick-off is really intended to inspire our campus community to invest in these ideals of multiculturalism and equity and inclusion,” Phelps said.
In addition to sharing future programming at the kick-off, the coalition will also be discussing their theme for the year, “Expanding Our Cultural Lens at Temple University,” and collecting responses from attendees to polling questions centered around campus diversity.
Marissa Rase, a junior biochemistry major and coalition member, is concerned only those with an already existing interest in social justice issues or multiculturalism will attend the kick-off.
Rase became interested in the coalition, which they describe as a “think-tank,” because of their own multifaceted identity. Rase identifies as agender, which means they do not identify with a gender. Rase also has dual citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
“You’ll notice that the campus is a huge diverse population, but everyone kind of just sticks to their groups, which is kind of uncomfortable in my personal opinion,” Rase said.
Devisha Walia, a sophomore marketing major and coalition member, said Temple’s Greek organizations serve as an example of such racial division on campus.
“We don’t really talk about how sororities and fraternities [are] so separated by race,” she said. “It’s very hard if you’re not black [or] white to even be interested.”
“Community building is a really important component to advancing social justice on a campus,” Phelps said. “It’s very important for student affinity groups to build community among one another, but also between student groups.”
Programming is being implemented by the student coalition to address the concerns of members, like Rase and Walia, but the coalition also wants to hear the concerns of students from all across campus.
Feedback from the Temple community at the coalition’s kick-off event will be influential for the coalition to tailor programming toward larger campus needs.
“We have your best interest at heart,” Rase said. “You just have to tell us what you need.”
One new upcoming coalition program through which students will be invited to share their opinions and experiences is “Owl Talk Tuesdays,” a monthly discussion series for students only, held from 5 to 6 p.m. on every third Tuesday of the month.
During meetings, Phelps said students will talk about one or two headlining current events that connect to issues like “race, gender, religion, citizenship.”
The first Owl Talk Tuesday will be held Sept. 15. More dialogues, panels and workshops hosted by the coalition are still to come.
“We want students to feel heard,” Phelps said. “We want students to come together no matter how informed you are about some of these issues.”
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.