Diversity Town Meeting

Groups look to heal racial divisions

By Scott Tibbs

On November 6, a town meeting was held in the Frangipani Room of the Indiana Memorial Union to discuss how to deal with tensions on campus with regard to race and gender. The meeting was sparked by the Zeta Beta Tau incident in which a racially charged scavenger hunt list led to the expulsion of the fraternity. However, while the meeting was inspired by the ZBT controversy, moderator Ken Todd attempted to keep the discussion focused on what could be done in the future to heal divisions.

The first part of the meeting was about how important it is to discuss events like this, and not "sweep them under the rug", as one representative from the Student Coalition pointed out. All this is well and good, because communication is the key to healing divisions. However, it was kind of redundant at this meeting, considering that was the reason the attendees were there. Only after some prodding by Ken Todd did the meeting move in the direction it was intended to be, which was throwing out possible solutions. A representative from OUT suggested various minority groups send representatives to other groups' meetings to show solidarity.

Dean Hanks of the Afro-American Studies program suggested two methods of dealing with intolerance, "scream, and get tough". First, to speak out when you see intolerance, and also to be prepared to take it because it isn't going away any time soon.

However, while many direct methods were discussed in the drive to increase tolerance, possible policies were suggested as well. Joon Park of the Asian American Association mentioned building an Asian Culture Center, and Black Student Union President Keisha Alexander was concerned IU was not as diverse as it could be. Alexander also suggested having meetings such as this one more often to allow people to express their concerns.

When questioned after the meeting, Dean Hanks commented "institutional racism" must be fought. Hanks explained "institutional racism" might not be intentionally malignant against minorities, but well-intentioned policies that hurt minorities. Hanks suggested ways to fight this include more efforts at retention of minority students, bringing in diverse faculty, and granting more funding to diversity offices.

All in all, while the meeting had great potential and some interesting points were raised, no new solutions were really brought forth, and the meeting itself was somewhat boring. In addition, the perceived need to stamp out intolerance raises an interesting point. While educating people about respecting other human beings is definitely a great idea, the phrase "stamping out intolerance" brings to mind a cartoon I saw in the newspaper some time ago. In the first panel, a king was on his throne issuing a decree to one of his subjects: "I have decided that we are now a tolerant country." In the second panel, the king follows up by saying "Anyone caught being intolerant will be thrown in the dungeon."

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