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%
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:
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:
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.