Northwestern students discuss perceptions of diversity through interactive piece


Teal Gordon/The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern students at Saturday’s “A Thousand Words” event choose seven photos from a folder that they think best represents NU’s student life. The event was an interactive presentation about diversity on campus.

McKenzie Maxson, Reporter

Through interactive demonstrations, six Northwestern students spent Saturday afternoon portraying the complexities of understanding diversity on campus.

“A Thousand Words,” which about 25 people attended in Fisk Hall, aimed to examine the diversity of NU’s student body. The students also questioned if the school’s outlook on diversity accurately represents its demographics and whether diversity should be viewed differently in the future.

Damon Krometis, a second-year graduate student said the performance was a collaborated effort with the Muslim-cultural Student’s Association. He received a grant from Inspire Media to fund “A Thousand Words,” a concept he developed during his independent study on civic and community engagement.

The idea that diversity is complicated and difficult to depict — the main theme of the performance — was expressed in many ways. Starting with an activity involving stereotyped pictures of randomly picked college students, the audience saw the difficulty of judging others and attempting to fit them into a single category.

“Everyone is a compilation of different identities,” Communication senior Catherine Mounger said. “It’s a mixture of where you’re from in the country, your race, your ethnicity, your gender, your friends, your religion. No one is the same, and I feel like that’s the way we need to look at every person’s identity.”

The performance also included other interactive games. One allowed students to recognize the privileges that may have allowed them to be admitted to NU, with a prize of cookies for all of the participants. Another allowed the audience to create what they thought would be a representative brochure of what diversity really looks like on campus.

The games and activities were followed by an informal discussion in which all participants could talk about any aspect of the performance, from what diversity meant to them to the different on- and off- campus experiences that shape their understandings.

“Our goal was to illustrate that diversity is hard and it’s complicated,” Communication sophomore Kenya Hall said. “You can’t just place the blame on the people in charge, because they are trying. We just wanted to really highlight that it really starts with us and we have to find more solutions than problems.”

The students in charge also emphasized that the issue of diversity is serious and can be controversial.

“We’ve clearly had a few racist incidents and misunderstandings here on campus in the past couple of years,” Communication junior Kyra Jones said. “There was some discussion happening last year, but it turned very hostile, and a lot of people separated themselves from it because they didn’t feel like they were included in the conversation. I thought this might be a better way to go about starting the discussion, and I think that it was really productive.”