What kind of influence and impact do cultural organizations have at UR? These organizations were created to provide individuals who share a culture a place in which to meet and socialize. This allows individuals to see the differences and diversity prevalent even within their own cultures and provides a venue for the increased understanding of similarities and differences. Also, these organizations were created increase recognition of different cultures and to educate mainstream society about cultural awareness.

The influence that cultural organizations have on the community is shaped by their mission statements. These organizations should focus their programming on the primary demographic that they were founded to serve. The interests and discussions of these organizations should be tailored toward introducing issues that pertain to the events and situations affecting that culture. For these groups to do otherwise would defeat their purpose.

Cultural groups do welcome and include the help and ideas of others. The only stipulation is that individuals join with an understanding that they are a part of an organization whose mission is to promote awareness and advancement of that culture.

For example the Spanish and Latino Students Association – SALSA – have had countless members not of Hispanic background. Two past presidents have been of Guyanese and Jamaican descent. This situation is also seen in groups such as ADITI, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Black Students’ Union. Inclusion does exist, just not at the expense of the group’s stated mission.

Cultural groups have existed on campus for years, and have reached out in many ways to other organizations and groups, as is evident in their ever-increasing memberships and co-sponsorship of programs. The reality is that the level of inclusion is not ideal. Instead of blaming this on the cultural group, we should question why Black, Latino and other interests are not attractive enough, consequentially deterring others from learning about them. Groups may have the ability to create educational as well as inviting learning environments, but it is also up to others to welcome the chance to learn about those environments and become a part of them.

Cultural groups have had dramatic effects on the level and quality of programming produced in the College. The work of these groups has led to drastic improvements in the amount of representation and accountability, which the administration has had toward student concerns. For instance, BSU successfully advocated the restoration of the Multi-Cultural Visitation Program, and cultural groups were responsible for forums on topics such as affirmative action, as well as other programming on topics relevant to our community.

The reality of the situation is that cultural organizations here at UR have a significant impact. Through events such as ADITI’s MELA, SALSA’s Tropicana week and BSU’s Black History month events, cultural groups have changed the landscape on campus and have introduced new perspectives and ideas. Their programs have become part of the mainstream agenda at UR that is highlighted every year.

Plonczynski can be reached at aplonczynski@campustimes.org.

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