Dear BI Career Consultants:
What are some strategies for dealing with inter-ethnic rivalries on campus, and how can I promote more working together among various ethnic groups?
A conflict does exist between different groups of color at many predominantly White colleges and universities in America.
As in society at large, this conflict grows out of the competition among these groups to be considered the major minority — or in other words, “who will sit next to the master.”
The non-Black community of color also has been concerned about administrative offices that have been specifically established on predominantly White campuses to meet minorities’ needs — particularly Minority Affairs Offices, where Black males have traditionally run the show.
It is clear that in order for people of color to be employed, gain admission and graduate from predominantly White universities, we must be united in our goals to be successful in these environments.
When we begin to talk about people of color coming together, our first goal should be to become united in our understanding of the impact of White supremacy, prejudice and bigotry. Also, people of color at these institutions of higher learning cannot be ashamed to identify with their racial groups. Too often African American students and staff do not want to be considered Black and other non-Black students and staff of color only want to be seen as White!
Coalition building is imperative for students and staff of color to achieve their goals at these predominantly White institutions. In order to establish this necessary togetherness, we must understand each group’s history. We must come to the table and understand our common denominators. The major common denominator that people of color face at predominantly White colleges and universities is one of being oppressed. Therefore, we need to learn to watch each others’ backs and begin to have honest dialogue. We also must break the polite silence. Students and staff of color must continue to design and implement programs that create a just community. In a time of alleged money crisis, we must co-sponsor and attend each other’s programs. Also, we must look for allies in the White community.
These predominantly White institutions need to understand that we are a force that will not be abused, denied or destroyed.
United we stand, divided we fall!
—Dr. Eric Abercrumbie, President of the John D. O’Bryant National Think Tank For Black Professionals in Higher Education on Predominantly White Campuses
At Iowa State, we strive to have groups identify common goals and work together toward those goals. While there may be several diverse ethnic groups, when you look at the big picture they have more similarities than differences. When you embrace diversity, there seems to be a more accepting attitude, and an attitude of wanting to learn about another group’s differences.
One of the things we do on this campus each year is attend the national conference on race and ethnicity. We send a delegation of faculty, staff, and students who collect information at the conference and bring it back to share with various groups, organizations and classes. This goes on throughout the year. We also have something called the Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity, which is organized by the individuals who attend the national conference. ISCORE is a microcosm of the national conference that focuses on our local needs. We also try to include the under-represented minority groups and the nonminority groups and not have the conference be dominated by any one particular ethnic group.
Another unique feature of this program is that students get academic credit for their participation in the conference. They do this by coming back from the conference and participating in activities such as making a presentation to a student ethnic group on campus that is different from their own ethnicity. We also have faculty and staff doing the same thing. We have professors who require their classes to participate in the conference. It is really a university-wide activity. We have purposely limited this conference to the campus because we want to reach the students and affect the campus. By opening it to the community we feel some students might become inclined not to participate.
We also have diversity and international perspectives requirements in the curriculum that students must satisfy in order to graduate. There are many approved courses they may choose from in order to meet the diversity requirements such as African American, Native American or Hispanic studies. The goal is for every student to have an experience dealing with diversity. We like to think if you live on a college campus you will be exposed to diversity, but you cannot take that for granted. We try to insure some systematic exposure..
—Dr. Thomas Hill, Vice President for Student Affairs, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
— Compiled by Joan Morgan
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