Real diversity at UIC
Unifying Diversity held their 2nd Annual Student Town Hall on April 15th in room 613 of Student Center East. The topic of the discussion was identity and isolation, which covered topics of developing or losing one’s identity when entering college and how organizations deal with the possibility of isolation that may occur when students join their groups.
According to the organization profile for Unifying Diversity on UIC’s student affairs website, the group was created to promote cultural awareness and alleviate prejudice by educating members from various backgrounds about customs and beliefs in an open forum through integrating experiences.”
The introduction of the event included a short speech made by Dr. Charu Thakral, the diversity planning specialist for the Office of Diversity, where she discussed the measures taken by the Diversity Strategic Thinking and Planning (DSTP) Committee to analyze the diverse characteristics of UIC. Their findings, including campus statistics of diversity and the UIC environment made through the conceptions of diversity on campus, can be found in the document titled “Through the Lens of Diversity”.
Thakral’s speech was followed by panel discussion consisting of four organizations’ leaders who shared information on their groups to the audience and related the topic of identity and isolation to their specific organizations’ functions. On the panel were the president of Brothers Reaching Out (BRO), Kenneth Vasser, the president for the Finance & Investment Group (FIG), Sharon Brandys, the president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA), Abdul Mannan, and the co-president of the Society of Future Physicians, Ashraf Abbas.
After each organizational leader spoke, the panel was opened to discussion where questions included improvement of each groups’ advertisement towards UIC students, the possibilities of isolating members into only one of the panel’s organization, future work on uniting larger numbers of organizations together to enhance UIC’s diversity, and even the topic of the potential multi-cultural center rumored around campus. Dr Charu Thakral clarified that there have been discussions about a multi-cultural center but no administrative decisions have been made at this point in time.
An interesting event occurred during the summit when an audience member asked Abdul Mannan if isolation is a big issue for students in the MSA because of the potential to segregate the main student population from Muslims. Mannan answered that in the past he has “reached out to different Christian organizations and the Hillel, [and] other Jewish organizations to conduct a joint event in order for the religious groups to become more united.” Unfortunately, he remarks, the other organizations either never got back to him or it failed to go through for other reasons. The next response came from Marla Baker, the executive director of the Levine Hillel Center, saying how [the Hillel Center organization] would love to sponsor things and work together more.
Being able to witness two groups successfully collaborate through an event like the Student Diversity Town Hall utilizes the true meaning of diversity at UIC. It exemplifies exactly why Unifying Diversity saw the need to conduct these events and address student issues in a diverse world.
For more information on Unifying Diversity or upcoming events, email Prashansa Sharma at [email protected]