“We want to get beyond superficial, politically correct diversity and get people really engaged in a heart level around these important issues, because it’s not okay for people to simply spout words that seem to connect with these issues,” said Dr. Kumea Shorter-Gooden.
At an event organized by the Student Justice Coalition at Nyumburu Cultural Center, Shorter-Gooden, chief diversity officer and associate vice president of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion at this university, and several other attendees addressed the excess of racial tensions occurring on campuses around the nation.
The Student Justice Coalition dedicated the week of Nov. 15 to spreading awareness of injustices that certain social groups are facing.
“You could have a lot of diversity in terms of population, but do people interact?” asked Dr. Natasha Mitchell. “Are people socializing in silos or is there true integration of interaction on the campus?”
Although there may be diverse campus communities, that may not necessarily mean a college is, in fact, diverse, Mitchell said.
“It could be that on one-dimension there is a lot of diversity on campus, but people don’t interact and don’t intersect,” Mitchell said.
“We have a lot of diversity on campus but we don’t have policies that really encourage faculty of color to stick around. We need people who are out there raising concerns and protesting, but we also need people in positions of power in our institutions making decisions, having a connection with all of those groups and understanding what the needs are for the population.”
Alesia Robinson, a junior public health sciences major, said she agreed with Mitchell regarding a shortage of diverse faculty on campus.
“I think that one of the solutions needs to be getting more diverse faculty here in this school and getting them into these major fields,” Robinson said.
Robinson emphasized this university would be taking a step in the right direction if it would implement general education courses focusing on diversity.
“Why do I have to fight to find time to take a class about women’s studies, African-American Studies or Latina studies,” Robinson said. “I think that the university needs to include more diversity in the electives or the general education courses that are offered instead of classes that are mandatory like UNIV100.”
Although there are courses that focus on social issues and diversity, Robinson said she believes not enough students are aware of these opportunities.
“I heard that there is a course being taught about the Freddie Gray situation in Baltimore, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t know about it,” Robinson said.
Most of the individuals who know about these types of courses are the people who are already abreast of these current events, she added.
Hareesa Mohammed, secretary of the Muslim Students Association and a senior civil and environmental engineering major, said she is also immensely unsatisfied with this university’s reactions to global social injustices. Mohammed referenced the email President Wallace Loh sent regarding the recent Paris attacks.
“I just wanted to email him back about him forgetting to mention what happened in Beirut, Baghdad and Palestine,” said Mohammed. “I don’t appreciate how this university picks and chooses which grievances to commemorate. I don’t appreciate how this university tells me who is the victim when I know I am the victim.”
Mohammed said she firmly believes it is important for everyone to stand with each other when anything happens to any one community.
“We need to be with each other and stand with each other when we see something that’s not right,” she said. “We need to stand up and fight for it, because this is our life right here.”
Although the Student Justice Coalition has taken the initiative to organize a series of socially relevant events, Mohammed said.
“We need to keep this going every semester, every day, every moment. It can’t stop here,” she said.
Featured Photo Credit: Students agreed the protests and events are for all members of the UMD community. (Ryan Eskalis/For The Bloc)
Joel Valley is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.