Committee holds forum on diversity

The Multicultural Advisory Committee (MAC) held an open forum, Respecting All Voices: Challenges and Solutions for a Diverse Campus on November 8 to discuss the topic of diversity in relation to the University.

Reggie Barnes, Director of Multicultural Affairs, facilitated the discussion by posing various questions to the audience of students and administrators.

“St. John’s is one of the most diverse universities in the most diverse city in the world,” Barnes said.

He explained that “bringing different students together enhances the experience but also brings up challenges.”

The goal of the forum was to identify these challenges that students face with diversity and to find a solution to them.
Barnes opened the discussion by questioning the audience about what it means to be part of a diverse community on campus.

Students responded that it helps them meet new people from other countries and obtain different perspectives through different cultural organizations, which all hold a variety of programs.

Some, however, felt that diversity makes people reluctant because it gives way to different stereotypes. One student noted that students have to look at their own prejudices.

Barnes agreed that a people don’t “want that mirror reflecting back.”Some challenges that were stated during the forum were about “de facto segregation,” where people tend to associate only with people who they are comfortable with and know will accept them. But the main question that Barnes raised was whether or not the students’ voices were being heard. Many disagreed, saying that their voices are not being heard by the right people.

The students said that the University needs to address the voices of disabled students, international students, non-traditional students who have families, graduate students and homosexuals.

The majority of the students in the audience felt that “the University avoids issues to make sure they don’t look bad.”
One student said that because St. John’s is a Catholic University, “it is taboo to talk about homosexuality or sex itself” even in college.

Some mentioned the incidents of “The Vagina Monologues” not being allowed on campus during the 2007 Spring Semester.
After a long discussion, the audience suggested that there should be more student government representation in order for everyone’s voices to be heard.

“I think more events like this should be happening but should be located in a more central place on campus,” said sophomore Brigid Campbell. “These types of forums allow the student body to join together and voice their opinions.”

Others thought that there should be more conversations about controversial topics in the classroom, a need for a central location to address student concerns and a monthly newsletter that gives feedback to the students.