A sense of community is something that the University of Maryland prides itself on, as evidence by all the the living and learning communities and different organizations that students are a part of.
But some of these groups and communities aren’t as inclusive as they should be, and students are trying to change that.
#ITooAmMaryland, the second event of Rise Above Week took place Monday from 4 to 6 p.m. and about 100 students and staff showed up in the Atrium of Stamp Student Union to discuss issues like microaggressions and exclusivity.
The event was a continuation of last year’s Rise Above Week conversation about microaggressions, which are brief, everyday verbal or behavioral responses that unintentionally or intentionally communicate derogatory insults toward marginalized groups, according to the office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Corin Gioia Edwards, the 34-year-old Associate Director for Programming and Advising of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Maryland, led one of the round table discussions about inclusiveness. She said that #ITooAmMaryland aims to get people talking about identity and how that connects to their experience at Maryland in order to create a more inclusive community.
“Sometimes it can get a little bit lonely if you’re experiencing an exclusive environment,” Edwards said.
Part of the event was a discussion on how to address people who promote exclusiveness and perpetuate microaggressions. She said it’s important to call the person out on what they said, and then say how it makes the affected individual feel.
“I think for the most part, the majority of people really aren’t meaning to offend,” Edwards said. “I think if we called them out, we’ll just create a safer space for everyone.”
Omar Mejia, a senior biology major who attended the event, thought that #ITooAmMaryland was helpful in teaching people how to deal with microaggressions.
“I think what’s going to resonate with people is how to deal with people who say a microaggressive statement,” he said. “And to focus more on what they said instead of who they are.”
One of the key aspects of #ITooAmMaryland is that a lot of the issues discussed, like microaggressions which relate to racism, sexism and homophobia, aren’t always directly talked about at the University of Maryland and in other communities.
Sierra Kelley-Chung, a senior individual studies major in minority advocacy and public policy, attended the event and is the co-president of Community Roots, a group that meets every Thursday to talk about different problems that communities face. She said that she realized from her round table discussion at #ITooAmMaryland that people on campus have experienced more racism than she has at the university.
“I haven’t really experienced any types of hatred or even microaggressions,” she said. “But to hear that people younger than me [have been] called the N-word.”
Kelley-Chung said that Rise Above Week as a whole is important because it focuses on problems like racism that affect students as well as the entire world.
“[Rise Above is] the one week where it’s not only my student group or these little groups hoping to talk about these issues,” Kelley-Chung said. “It’s like the entire school is attempting to work out these problems.”
Featured Photo Credit: Nov. 25, 2014 – More than 200 students attended a sit-in. (Sung-Min Kim/For The Bloc)
Alex Carolan is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.