The Office of Multicultural Affairs is working on a solution to address racial inequalities and negative experiences minorities have on campus. This effort began with an open discussion at the Sundaes on Mondays meeting.
April Napier, the director of OMA, facilitated the meeting which began with a video on cultural appropriation followed by two groups of students walking up to the front of Hart Auditorium. The first group told their stories of being treated differently and the second group asked questions on how they can help minority students and learn from them.
“I’m grateful we could talk, and that everyone was transparent,” Napier said. “I think accountability was shown while showing love, and think moving forward we have to keep this intentionality up. We have to make sure that we are every day acting and talking in a way that moves us all forward.”
This meeting came on the heels of a controversy over a hairstyle worn by pledges of Sigma Theta Chi that pinned students against each other on social media, however, the meeting went beyond the situation into a more broad issue of teaching the majority.
“I’m glad that we are able to just break this cycle and dismantling this now,” Napier said. “I don’t want to wait. I’m glad that we are on the same page of ‘I’m not for this anymore’ and we need to do better as a collective and we need to love each other better as a collective.”
Some of the topics discussed by minorities included:
- Having to work harder in school to gain respect as a person who has a different skin color or sexual orientation
- Having a fear of authority or of the police because of the color of one’s skin and their ethnic background
- Being the only minority in situations and having to constantly explain minority standpoints and experiences
- Having their culture mocked or viewed as entertainment or a novelty
- Not being able to embrace their heritage without being looked at differently or told to stop
OMA is going to continue the conversation with continued Sundaes on Mondays discussions as well as Wednesday walks. Interns walk around campus on Wednesday and strike up conversations with students around campus regarding OMA and more activities to invite in students to OMA and interact with people of a different race or ethnic background.
Not only were students in attendance, but faculty and staff were also invited to sit in on the discussion and listen. Hannah Felice, the resident director of Morris Hall, said how the conversation needs to be continued and addressed by the university.
“I think this is just one small part of a conversation that needs to be had,” Felice said. “And I would really be interested in seeing more of the university’s response to some of these issues that are happening and recognition on some of the important student things going on.”
Residence halls are home to students of multiple backgrounds and Felice said becoming a change for students as a resident director is discussed frequently in the Office of Residence Life.
“My question is that making sure what we are doing in our halls is providing an experience for not just one type of student,” Felice said. “We are hoping to hire more diverse students in a response to honoring some of those areas of our student body that deserve having a mentor in their lives that comes from a diverse background. But I think also a part of it is just sitting down with our students, especially minorities and hearing about their needs.”
Erica Robbins is a student who represented African-American Minorities in the discussion and said the discussion was only the beginning and students need to continue to talk as well as listen.
“I’m curious to see the moves we’re going to make as students, faculty and staff as a university to help with cultural competence because it doesn’t happen overnight,” said Robbins, a junior Social work major from Kirksville. “It’s going to take progression and uncomfortability to get where we need to be.”
Robbins is also a member of OMA and attends the regular Sundaes on Mondays meetings.
“This is the biggest Sundaes on Mondays that we’ve has since I’ve been a student here, and from that, I think that just shows how many people actually care about the situation which is good,” Robbins said.
Sarah Cheney is a student who participated in the discussion from the standpoint of a person who is not a minority but wants to help minority students and learn more about their perspective in life.
“I think it’s important for the change to start with understanding more than you trying to be understood yourself,” said Cheney, a junior social work major from Fort Worth. “I think it was a good conversation and a good foundation, but it doesn’t stop here for sure and I really hope that other people realize that too.”