Allison hosts diversity discussion

Joseph Diebold

Continuing an informal series of forums on creating a more inclusive community, Allison Hall hosted a discussion Wednesday on ways to improve the state of diversity at Northwestern.

About 15 students attended the discussion, along with Area Coordinator of Residential Life, Keenan Colquitt. The talk largely focused on two concrete suggestions that have been previously raised by students: creating a cultural competency distribution requirement and increasing acceptance rates for minority students.

SESP junior Zoe Goodman spoke out at the meeting in favor of increasing demographic diversity.

“After you meet somebody and after you become friends with somebody, it’s a lot harder to be ignorant about them or about their culture,” Goodman said. “(Raising minority acceptance rates) is like half the battle because once you meet people who you like and who you’re friends with, you don’t look at a whole race the same way.”

Medill senior Dallas Wright agreed, saying the NU administration cannot afford to settle on the issue of diversity.

“Northwestern doesn’t posit itself as a normal place, as an average, representative place,” he said. “It’s supposed to be an extraordinary, exceptional institution. We’re supposed to be producing the leaders of the next generation, but yet we choose not to lead on something that a lot of people consider extremely critical.”

Wright noted the distinction made in the recently released diversity report between social diversity, which includes demographics, and cultural diversity, which the report states “focuses attention on the limits placed on diversity where particular differences of ethnicity, gender and nationality, are marked by experiences of inequalities and marginalization.”

He said NU’s long history of marginalizing minorities has created an excess of cultural institutions on campus like Dillo Day and Dance Marathon where there is “not really a space for cultural diversity.”

The discussion was organized by Allison Community Assistant Ivy Zhu. Zhu said she wanted to take the spirit of campus discussions on diversity and bring them to the Allison community.

“In light of a lot of the recent events – the egging, the ‘Racist Olympics’ – I thought this was a really good opportunity and something that was important to talk about,” Zhu said. “It’s hard to coordinate discussions, especially about topics like this. I think there was good participation, and I was glad people were willing to come here and share what they thought.”

Near the end, the group turned to a discussion of how to keep students engaged and enact real change.

“Northwestern students will get really fired up, and we all come out to one or two forums and we’re like, ‘Explain yourselves,'” Goodman said. “It’s really hard to keep a large group of people motivated for a long period of time. You see people like Dallas who have been doing this for four years, who have devoted an enormous amount of time. We need more of those people. We should all theoretically be doing that.”

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