Students gain new perspective

By on February 22, 2006

This past Saturday, Alumni Hall hosted the first annual Diversity Conference at Quinnipiac University.

The daylong event invited students, faculty, and staff to participate in workshops and programs that fostered diversity.

Jane Elliott, a teacher and champion of diversity, was the keynote speaker for the conference.

Elliott is famous for her “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” experiment, in which she created a way to introduce people to the experiences of unfair prejudice and minority treatment.

“[Jane] Elliott just had this wealth of knowledge and information,” Peter Gallay, conference coordinator, said. “She brings up ideas you didn’t know or think about.”

Elliott held those in attendance in rapt attention after the first series of workshops, concerning global diversity began.

These morning programs included Diversity in the Media, Genealogy, Identity Through Diversity, Women of the World: You Think You Know, but You Have No Idea; The Race Card, and International Culture Clashes.

“When I read the e-mail for the Diversity Conference, I almost deleted it like I do most letters,” Andrea Orlando, a junior sociology major, said. “But then I started reading the list of programs and decided to sign up.”

“Is There Still a Difference b etween Men and Women?”, “College Eye,” “Diversity in Action,” and “A Stranger in a Strange Land: Navigating Interracial Communication.”

During “Archie Bunker’s Neighborhood” workshop, students were divided into three groups, representing the three generally accepted levels of income. Hall directors John Stinchon and Erin Twomey presided over the activity.

Students were divided further by gender and ethnicity within these groups which corresponded to the colored stickers on their shirt.

Each group was responsible for creating a community for their income level, including homes, businesses, a school, and place of worship.

The status and demographic of each student was kept anonymous except to the “officials” of the town.

As the students wandered from office to institution, frustration grew as the town officials exhibited discrimination against racial and economic minorities.

Once the workshop ended, and those citizens who had been put “in jail” were freed, the group discussed the lessons of the exercise.

Students voiced their annoyance and discouragement at being treated unfairly by supposedly honorable officials, and sympathized with the lower class’ irritation at completing only a few of the tasks assigned.

However, the exercise reached a new level of thinking outside the box.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen the upper class helping the lower class,” Twomey remarked. “Usually they take-off with their money and buy, buy, buy.”

Stinchon also voiced his surprise at the lack of rioting by the lower class, which he said tends to happen once the frustration reaches a climax.

As participants gathered back into Alumni Hall for the final words, Director of Multicultural Affairs Tyrone Black asked those in attendance to do more than just return to their dorm rooms and homes.

“Now, you are responsible,” Black said. “Today we learned something, and we learned we need to work on some things. We need to get mad at ourselves, we need to look at ourselves, and we need to hold each other accountable.”

Black told the audience that it was their turn to go out and exercise what they had learned, and to teach by doing.

The question of achieving a diverse and supportive university community is not unimaginable because, as Black pointed out, “we are different people, but we are different people looking at the same things.”

The Diversity Conference was sponsored by SHADES, Students Helping Advocate Diversity Education, and is one of the many events held this February in celebration of Black History Month.


About Meredith Somers