Panel holds discussion on diversity

UH is already considered one of the most diverse institutions in the nation but that doesn’t mean the campus community is resting on its laurels, as proven by a recent seminar that focused on how the University can continue to improve its diversity.

Counseling and Psychological Services presented its annual Diversity Institute on Friday at the Rockwell Pavilion inside the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library. The free event, with its theme of “Acknowledging our Similarities, Celebrating our Differences,” focused on promoting and raising awareness of diversity on campus.

The daylong event began with breakfast after which Tamalia Hanchell, Psy.D., a multicultural postdoctoral fellow with CAPS, welcomed everyone and gave an overview of what would happen throughout the day.

Events included a multicultural lunch with foods from countries that included the US, Jamaica and Mexico, a fashion show that showcased fashions from Vietnam, Senegal, Mexico, China, the Bahamas, India and Liberia, and chances for students to win prizes.

Richard Walker, vice president of Student Affairs, opened by acknowledging the progress that the University has made in order for it to become the second most diverse university in the country. He also remarked on the work that is still needed like adding gender identity and expression in the anti-discrimination policy.

An icebreaker aimed at giving the audience a chance to interact with one another and to learn about someone that had a cultural background that is different than their own followed Walker’s remarks.

After the icebreaker, the first panel of the day began.

Entitled “Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say”, based on Dr. Maura Cullen’s book, “35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say,” the panel was moderated by Beverly McPhail, director of the Women’s Resource Center. The panel discussed how saying something that may seem innocent to one person might in fact be very hurtful to another.

Statements such as “I don’t see color,” “That’s retarded,” or “Man up” and how those statements may be hurtful were discussed. Some in attendance stood up and were able to address topics that they felt needed to be discussed like how to be properly addressed, the concept of race, and gender assumptions.

The one thing McPhail stressed was her belief that self-censorship is not the answer—rather, we should ask questions of others in order to learn and educate ourselves.

Keynote speaker of the day was John Roberts, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, who spoke about the historical aspects of diversity and multiculturalism of the country, and how assimilation has now become less the model of American identity.

Roberts also spoke on the need to “break the silence on differences” and that people need to be willing to speak up about them.

The final panel of the day on diversity on campus and ways that the University could further awareness and promotion was moderated by Cecilia Sun, Ph.D., assistant director of training at CAPS.

The panel was made up of representatives of several student organizations as well as UH faculty members. Included in the panel was a discussion on stereotypes, questions from the audience, and ways that student organizations and the faulty could help the University in promoting diversity with the student body.

Though the theme was about acknowledging similarities and celebrating the differences, education was heavily stressed throughout the event since, as many panelists stated, it’s education that really promotes diversity.

The 2012 Diversity Institute was co-sponsored by The Center For Leadership and Fraternity and Sorority Life, The Women’s Resource Center and The Center For Student Involvement.

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