Diversity is a term that produces a variety of responses. It has been defined as a multiplicity of difference. Temple University definitely has its share of multifarious cultures.
One can scarcely walk around campus and not encounter a student or staff member who represents a culture or identity vastly different from ones own. In spite of this, Temple is also plagued with the image of ethnic cliquing or the very identifiable grouping of students who share a similar ethnic origin.
Temple is undoubtedly diverse, but just how integrated is its diversity?
A number of student organizations see the need and benefit in informing others about their own culture, and see even more benefit in organizing programs which foster ethno-religious integration among students.
Temple Student Government President, Bunmi Samuel, outlined a number of programs TSG is supporting which aims at bridging Temple’s ethnic divide. Temple Culture Fest, a weeklong event sponsored by TSG, aims at bringing the various culture and religion based organizations together to educate other organizations and the student body, on their respective cultural traditions and philosophies.
Samuel also spoke of the newly instituted Kaleidoscope Fund, which is aimed at truly fostering interaction between culture-based groups. The main criterion for eligibility for this fund is that at least two culture-based organizations work together to produce a program that is geared toward increasing Temple’s awareness of cultural diversity.
In making it mandatory that a single proposal be tendered by the respective organizations, cooperation and cross-cultural interaction is encouraged. Considering that Temple has at least 25 ethno-religious cultural student organizations, according to the Office of Student Activities, it should not be difficult for these funds to be used.
But according to Kehinde Audrey and Viswam Nair, coordinators of Culture Fest, the response from the organizations is embarrassing. Thus far, only three organizations have shown full support for the venture initially scheduled from Feb. 26 to March 2. The event has been postponed until March 26 to 31st.
TSG is undaunted as it plans to have a cultural theme attached to its Spring Fling celebrations, similar to what was successfully attempted at Homecoming. Other programs like TSG Penpals, aim at uniting Temple’s international campuses.
The Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), and the Indian Students’ Association at Temple (ISAT), also see the dissemination of information on their respective cultures as imperative to fostering true understanding of cultures. ISAT is currently engaged in raising funds to help the victims of the devastating earthquake that recently shook India.
The MSA is hosting a multi-cultural luncheon, open to all students and free Arabic classes.
The Asian Studies program is also in the process of organizing Asian Heritage Month, another program aimed at bringing cultural awareness and integration into the university atmosphere.
Many individuals and organizations share the same view as Samuel, in that college provides the unique benefit of having so many people of different cultures in one place, engaging in similar activities.
There is potential at Temple to have people of different cultures engaging in similar activities as the different agencies have been attempting.
At the international university in Malaysia, where a similar problem existed, one student was asked to comment on the issue of ethnic cliquing. She asked this question: “Say you walked into the cafeteria, and there were five tables, each occupied by a different ethnic group, of which one was your own. At each table there was one empty seat, where would you sit?”
Ask yourself this one question: Which table will you sit at?