Tackling the Diversity Dilemma at UMBC

Throughout the world there is a lack of inclusion within different social and racial classes. On UMBC’s campus we see a lot of diversity but these groups tend to keep to themselves. UMBC is extremely diverse. Below I have included the demographics of the 2017 freshmen class (my class):

  • White: 40%
  • Asian: 26%
  • Black: 17%
  • Hispanic: 7%
  • International: 4%

https://undergraduate.umbc.edu/quicklinks/fast-facts.php

People look at these statistics and assume that there isn’t anything that needs to be worked on in regards to diversity on campus, but these people are wrong. Before the March Madness game UMBC vs UVA, our school lacked a sense of unity. It still doesn’t foster a feeling of cultural and racial unity and inclusion. That being said, my project helped address the problem of cultural and racial diversity and unity not being present on campus. These groups of student and facility need to be represented and need to feel included and welcomed on campus. Everyone deserves to be embraced and not excluded.

We definitely are not the worst in terms of diversity and inclusion for a college campus, but we aren’t perfect. Our University has a website dedicated to diversity and inclusion https://diversity.umbc.edu/ . The vision statement on the website includes:

diversity-inclusion-vision-image-new.jpg 

This statement illustrates that the UMBC understands the importance of diversity and inclusion, but is having difficulty implementing it.

Thus, I created a new dinner series called: Diversity Dinner. As the former Project Manager for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs in the Student Government Association I utilized my resources to fulfill this activism project. I used funding from SGA to book the Skylight Room and have the event catered.

The specific goal of my project was to address the lack of diversity and inclusion amongst student organizations and work in collaboration with the student body to identify and address these issues. I sat down with leaders and members in a multitude or organizations and ask them thought provoking questions related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender diversity and inclusion in their organizations. We sat in focus groups with peer facilitators (myself and Meghan Lynch, Vice President for Student Organizations in SGA) while eating dinner and asked these questions.  We had a raw discussion to fully understand what issues there are within student organizations in regards to  race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender diversity and inclusion. I started the conversation by asking them questions that I created with Lisa Gray (Associate Director of Diversity and Inclusion). We had a raw discussion because the participants were asking questions and brought up points that neither Lisa nor I addressed in our list of questions. They asked questions such as, is there a reason why the most diverse professors teach social sciences, arts, and humanities.

To me a successful project means that at least one participant was positively impacted. That they felt heard, that someone cares and is willing to put in the work to seek positive change in diversity and inclusion within the student body and faculty/staff. I feel that my two diversity dinners were successful because they were impactful. One participant tweeted:

unnamed

Overall, reaching out to cultural organization e-board members was effective. Next time I will find a way to reach out to a bigger population of students so that I can get a more accurate representation. What didn’t work as well was getting the faculty excited about UMBC’s diversity dilemma. Maybe holding a position with more responsibilities in SGA could help.

Throughout the course of this project, I realized that some faculty members did not take me seriously. Maybe because I am a first-year student or because I held an appointed position in Student Government and not an elected one. But as an activist, this made me more motivated to make a difference because I wanted to prove that I am capable of tacking such a layered problem.

  Now, as a Senator of the Student Government Association, I will take the feedback from the two diversity dinners and share them with the Faculty senate. This is an incredible institution and with effective communication between the student body and the administration we can truly flourish. We can and we should work together to make the House of Grit and Greatness a house that cultivates inclusion in diversity.

 

 

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#BeClear

consent

I chose to do my activism project on consent as I have read articles and listened to conversations about how people were sexually assaulted or inappropriately touched. A few of the conversations that I overheard involved persons that I knew personally and professionally.
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Only One of the Many

10 Things the US Government Got Right (And Promptly Ruined) - America’s public schools are overwhelmingly financed through the collection of property taxes. That means that poor neighborhoods equal low property values, which equals low spending on public schools.

Riverview Elementary School is a Title I school, in which most students come from low-income families and receive federal funding. More than 95% of students receive federal funding at Riverview. Though Riverview receives federal funding, the school’s academic performance is inadequate like most other public schools that are Title I. To show Riverview’s poor academic performance, I have researched their third-grade class Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Language Arts test scores:

  • 6% of students did not expectations on PARCC
  • 2% of students partially met expectations on PARCC
  • 5% of students approached expectations on PARCC
  • 6% of students met expectation on PARCC
  • Less than 5% of students exceeded expectation on PARCC

So, only about 24.6% of students performed well on the test while 78.3% of students did not.

Riverview PARCC

Now, I am not saying we need to teach students to perform well on tests, but why are students at low-income community schools doing worse than other students at high-income community schools?

At Severna Park Elementary School, a high-income community public school in Anne Arundel County, the PARCC test scores are:

  • Less than 5% not meeting expectations
  • Less than 5% of students partially meeting expectations
  • 4% of students approaching expectations
  • 3% of students meeting expectations
  • 1% of students exceeding expectations

Severna Park PARCC

The majority of students at Severna Park Elementary School are white and the majority of students are African-American at Riverview Elementary Schools with a large Spanish community.

Severna Park Race and Ethnicity

Race and Ethnicity at Riverview

These statistics are important to look at because they show us that we have an unequal public-school system here in the United States of America. An unequal education is established by a student’s family socio-economic background, race and ethnicity, academic performance, and by the resources provided to the students.

In late August of 2017, I decided I wanted to do service-learning at the Shriver-Center at UMBC. In October, I became a teacher’s assistant at Riverview Elementary School for a third-grade class where I helped my students build strong literacy skills, while building positive relationships with them.

In the third-grade class that I helped assist, there were six students below reading grade-level. One of my students approached me and said that she didn’t like reading her books, because they were too easy for her. I then read ono-on-one with her to see where she was at with her reading ability and I found that she stumbles on some words, but overall, she reads efficiently. I then had her choose a chapter book for us to read together while I helped her sound out the words she didn’t know and asked her questions about the book to make sure she understood what she was reading. In addition, I took notes on the story, so when I would read with her the next time, she would not forget what happened and would understand the story better.

I also found that my other students below reading grade-level were reading books that were unchallenging and I also sat down with them individually to read with them one-on-one. Unfortunately, I could not do this every time I volunteered at Riverview because of their schedule and the major projects they had to do. I think having more time at my service-site would have benefited my students more and would have helped me improve their academic abilities. However, I did find that having my students read out loud and tracking what they are readings is a lot better than them reading on i-ready, a website that assists students in learning how to spell and sound out words.

In addition to working with my students become better readers, I also worked with them to become better writers. Some of my students struggled with structuring their sentences and paragraphs, or even writing down their ideas in a coherent way. I found only helping them structure their paragraphs with transition words and correcting misspelled words, assured me that they were thinking on their own.

I wanted to volunteer at Riverview Elementary School to gain teaching skills, because I planned on doing Teach for Americaafter graduation. However, my students showed me that I want to make a career out of bringing an equal education to all children in the United States. Volunteering at Riverview, helped me notice the discrimination in low-income community schools more clearly. It helped me see the ignorance to the issue and that some people don’t know what a Title I school is.

If I were to volunteer again to help students thrive in their academics, I would definitely go to my service-site more than two days a week. I also would communicate more with the teacher to see what I can do to have a greater effect on the student’s academic performance. I would want to work more ono-one-one with my students below reading grade-level to see through chapter books with them.

Through doing this activism project, I learned that I will continue this work throughout the course of my life. I learned that feminist activism does not only have to be about fighting for women’s rights but fighting for equality for all those who are marginalized. An unequal education prevents, both girls and boys, from achieving gender equality. In addition to, it cripples their right as a human being to have a quality education, one that is not affected by their socio-economic background. In order for women and men to be equal, they all need to be equal through the social, economic, and political domains.

I also learned that in order to make real change in the world, we cannot think practical. For instance, charter schools and financial assistance are only going to prolong the problem, they are not the solution to solving the issue. We need to establish an equal education for students altogether in the United Sates without the need of financial assistance and the need to open up charter schools in low-income areas. We need more teachers, we need after-school programs, we need to give all academic subjects equal value, and we need to give students the opportunity to be taught humanity.

https://datausa.io/

http://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov/

https://www.usnews.com/opinion/knowledge-bank/articles/2017-05-08/how-charter-schools-improve-traditional-district-education

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/education/bs-md-ci-poverty-undercount-20180202-story.html

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/readersrespond/bs-ed-rr-school-counselors-letter-20180305-story.html

 

 

Digital Footprint Awareness

footprint.fyi – A site about digital footprints

The Internet has embedded itself in many parts of our daily lives. However, a lot of people take the myriad of seemingly free services that have sprung up over time for granted. What I wanted to achieve through this project is increased awareness about the digital footprint that individuals leave behind when they use the Internet. Continue reading

Stop stereotyping

 

 

According to the Merriam-Webster, stereotypes are a standardized mental picture that are held in common by members of a group and represent an oversimplified opinion, prejudice attitude, or uncritical judgment. Some people believe that we constantly use stereotypes as a fight or flight mechanism against people that we do not know. However, this becomes a problem when it fuels prejudice and discrimination. Stereotyping has cost people friends, jobs, money, and their lives. In order to change the narrative of certain stereotypes that our peers face on a daily basis, we have to discuss the stereotypes.

We decided to base our project on this topic because it is important to talk about stereotypes due to the fact that  most people are limited by them, and many people have those simplified depictions about other’s. Stereotyping can cause a misconstrued view of a specific group of people. There could also be false schemas that prohibits a certain group of  people from obtaining the same opportunities as others. Inaccurate ways of thinking sustains racism. Stereotypes tend to be targeted towards minority groups,  leading to certain racial groups to assume they are superior to others. Everyone should try to have an understanding of multiple cultures, their values, and practices in order to reduce ignorance. But most importantly, take into account individual’s’ unique characteristics.

Initially, we envisioned making posters to depict different stereotypes, but we realized that it would be more intimate to our audience if we depicted live personal accounts through a video. We also felt it would be more personal for us to ask our friends and family about their experiences with stereotyping. Through our interviews, we realized that those close to us have experienced many of the same stereotyping that we have also experienced. When creating the video, we video taped interviews that our group members took, and put them together to include everyone’s experiences, which we posted on youtube. In addition, we created a tumblr blog to post different quotes, our video, and pictures in which we felt would support our stance for anti stereotyping. We posted our video link on tumblr  as a social media campaign for awareness of stereotypes and their effects. What we could do differently next time would be to have every interview follow the same script, and have our tumblr blog mentioned somewhere in the video in order to spread more awareness. Another thing we could have done differently was to have wider variety of races and ethnicities to share their stories.  

From the interviews we found that the stereotypes that African American people face are very widely ranged. From the things they wear to the things they eat, many people stereotype black people as jokes, but they do not realize that these jokes have a harmful effect on others lives. The joke that black people always have “ghetto” names takes from the fact that some of their names have origins in other countries with specific meanings. This stereotype reaches all the way to HR departments in many jobs, who will avoid hiring people because of certain names. There is also an “Angry Black Woman” stereotype that affects many Black women, which makes it difficult for them to be passionate about something. This is heavily associated with the fact that they’re falsely judged by their facial expressions and body language. Black women should be able to speak passionately about something and not get called angry or said to have a bad attitude based off of their delivery. Black women, and all women, should not have to close their mouths because it makes other people uncomfortable.

We also found that although Asians are also part of American society, they are often invisible. The prejudice towards Asian Americans that they do not, or cannot belong to America is still pervasive. A lot of Asian Americans are still asked where they are “really” from when they say they are Americans. Also, people often assume Asian people’s nationality just by their race. For example, most people believe that someone must be Chinese because she or he is an Asian. Stereotyping also causes wrong appreciation of Asian cultures. A lot of people still do not understand that saying Konnichiwa or bowing with their palms touched to Asians is not a sign of respect. Stereotypes regarding Asian people’s origin and culture are damaging to the values of the Asian heritage.

Finally, we were able to capture the latino experience here in the U.S. Latinos and Hispanics are one of the minority groups in which there are mainly, if not all, derogatory stereotypes. Our video included the stereotypes of latino/hispanics being laborers, or house cleaners, and illegal immigrants. However, those aren’t all of the claims out there. There is a common misconception that latinos/hispanics are lazy and take advantage of government assistance. Not to mention, Donald Trump’s inappropriate and inaccurate comments about them being rapists and criminals. Also, latina/hispanic women in the media are commonly depicted as very “fertile”, dumb, and sexual deviants. These negative portrayals lead to many people avoiding and not taking latinos/hispanics seriously.

Nevertheless, Stereotypes affect many different groups, in different ways, but it is truly evident that they tend to stem from a place of hate and prejudice. We as a society have the duty to end the hate, prejudice, and discrimination, because it is these things that keeps us from going forward. There is no good that comes from hate, only distress and resent. Although it is evident that we have come a long way, this is only the beginning and there is a long way to go. There are small steps each one of us can take in order to end this plague that affects many of us. Whether it’s ending your own stereotypes towards others, or  voicing your opinion for what you feel is wrong, we all have the power to end stereotyping. What will you do to end stereotyping?

Youtube link:

 

Tumblr link:

https://www.tumblr.com/blog/antistereotype

 

Sex and Women

 

Purpose:

The purpose of my activist project was to enrich the campus community about the pressures and stereotypes women face in terms of sex and their sexuality. It was important to discuss this topic because often times women are ridiculed and shamed for liking sex or talking about sex while our male counterparts are celebrated with “high-fives”, pats on the back or shoulder, or a hoot and holler. I think we accomplished my goal because I was able to create an open and safe place for young men and women to discuss women, sex, and stereotypes in a respectful and not awkward way.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 3.56.16 AM

~ Our event flyer ~

Project Evaluation:

Through the use of a powerpoint that was created using a multitude of sources, we were able to help educate our audience on the issue women face in regard to sex. We further enhanced the event by providing a fun game of sex jeopardy with goody bag prizes that included a multitude of contraceptives including lubricant, vaginal condoms, oral condoms, dental dams, and a coupon to Adam and Eve sex toy website. We also handed out our leftover nipple cupcakes that were used earlier in the day to promote the event. I believe these aspects brought together made our event extremely successful. We also had over 15 attendees that didn’t include ourselves. We honestly weren’t expecting that many people to show up since it was so close to the end of the semester.

One thing I would definitely do differently would be to better facilitate the end discussion with supplemental questions that would be asked after a person speaks. It’s sometimes hard to think of an additive question on the spot after someone provides their opinion. In that moment, I was in awe of how easily professors do that in class. I honestly felt we ended the discussion a bit abruptly. It happened because we  didn’t realize how long the jeopardy game was going to take. Although it was exciting, fun and the audience enjoyed themselves, at times it became a bit rowdy. There were some very competitive spirits in the building! Next time I’ll be sure to do more than one test run of the event and also make sure the test run occurs days before the event and not the day of.

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 3.56.10 AM

I thought it was a really good idea that we put this disclaimer.

We also used a portion of this video to talk about workplace stereotypes.

Moving Forward with Activism:

The project has made me realize that I definitely like to do activism in a team rather than independently on my own. It made me realize that I have plenty of resources around me especially within my friends and family. Honestly, prior to this event,, putting on this kind of event would not have been considered a form of activism in my book. Prior to this class and project, my view of what constitutes activism was slim. I alway envisioned a protest, petition signing, stake/walk-outs, fundraisers, etc. I didn’t think that me creating a powerpoint and putting on a simple, educational, and fun event would be a form of activism.  I’ve learned that almost anything can be activism. It doesn’t have to be on a massive school. Small steps, quakes, and waves can help add on to a movement that can turn into catastrophic power.

IMG-2661

My sorority sisters and I posing with our nipple cupcakes!

Free The Nipple

My activist project focused on the inequalities surrounding nudity laws. According to federal and most states’ laws, the exposure of a female nipple is considered public indecency. Conversely, there are no laws against the exposure of a male nipple. The Free the Nipple project is a group that promotes equality in this field and empowerment for women. They were the inspiration for designing and distributing my nipple buttons.

The 1.25-inch buttons show a photograph of a nipple on the face and, initially, I had intended to include the Free The Nipple website on the back. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to have the website printed on the back for the final product. The goal of sharing these buttons around campus was to start a conversation about nudity and simply raise awareness about the subject.

Hypothetically, someone would pick up a button, notice the picture of a nipple, and feel a certain way about the image. I assume the reactions ranged from comedic to offended to appreciative. Regardless of the reaction, that person would be forced to think about why a nipple is on a button, why someone might distribute these buttons and why it is or is not appropriate. Maybe they would have a discussion about their thoughts with a peer. This process would be smoother with the link on the back of the button. This way, someone could be confused by the button, but find more information on the Free The Nipple site. I am sure some people picked up my buttons, had no idea what they were and threw them away. Including the site would be a great addition for anyone who wanted to do this project again.

 

http://freethenipple.com/ – Here is the link.

 

Making these buttons was less challenging than I expected. While planning this project, I struggled to find images of nipples, male or female. Taking images from the web would require that I credit the source. This is not something I could do on a button. I then thought I could have a friend draw nipples instead of using images. I scrapped that idea because I think actual images have a shock factor that is necessary to spark conversation. Someone in class also brought it to my attention that I should include nipples of all shapes, sizes, and colors. This made me think that I need to use real images. I decided to ask if anyone in class would volunteer to send me pictures of their nipples. I was worried, however, because I would need to send technically illegal images over my school email. My lovely classmates sent me images and I had no trouble with the school. I ended up with five usable pictures of very diverse nipples.

IMG_6529

Making the buttons was also much easier than I expected. The GWST department offered their button-making-machine, but it did not make the correct size button. Instead, I used Common Vision. I decided to make 100 buttons, 20 of each image. Common Vision was incredibly helpful and did not bat an eye when I sent them a folder full of nipple pictures. They even formatted the images for me. Go Common Vision!

Once they were finished, I offered buttons to the class and I was surprised to see how many people wanted them. I took the rest and distributed them among common spaces on campus i.e. I put small handfuls on tables, benches, and desks. I do not spend much time on campus so I did not see anyone wearing the buttons. Someone from class told me they saw people wearing them and I consider that a success! Next time, I would make more buttons so people are more able to find them.

I think it is incredibly important to talk about taboo issues, like female nipples. I also think it is important to question why some things are taboo? Why aren’t women allowed to show their nipples? Why are they so hypersexualized? Are there different stigmas for different types of women? Race? Sexual Orientation? Ability? Free the Nipple is a great movement and I think they are doing more than just questioning nudity laws. People like myself are inspired by these movements and feel important, empowered and maybe even part of the solution.

Smaller activist projects like the ones we were assigned for this class have a similar effect of people. Many do not realize that activism includes any intentional change for the better, no matter how small. I never considered myself an activist before because I don’t believe my efforts are large enough. There are many people who put a ton of effort into activism and I thought considering myself an activist might cheapen the label. I still think is important to give credit where credit is due, but I might consider myself a part-time activist. I also think this project was an excellent opportunity to inspire us and show us how easy it is to make a difference.