Students gathered for an open forum on diversity, sponsored by the Minority Students Advisory Board, on Thursday, Feb. 28 to try to determine why students have not rallied around the issue of diversity, even though administrators have addressed it as an issue of great importance.

At the front of the Gowen Room in Wilson Commons were six representatives from various on-campus student groups.

Educational Chair of MSAB and junior Brittany Carter mediated the discussion. During the forum the panelists related their challenges in getting members to participate in serious discussions about diversity, questioned whether people cared enough about diversity to generate change and considered why diversity might not gain as much attention as coffee beans.

It did not take long for the forum’s participants to reach the consensus that the majority of the UR student body does not feel the importance of diversity. Carter and panel members began concluding that in order to promote diversity throughout the student body, its importance needs to first be made clear. The panel members acknowledged their part in making their members more aware and active toward the war on the lack of diversity, and they reasoned that one way to do this was to have more open forums discussing the importance of diversity.

“It’s easy getting students to come to social events,” junior Mariam Mull said. She described the trouble that arises when groups put on serious events with the potential to affect change.

“Students just don’t want to make time in their day to attend more serious events,” she said.

Take Five scholar Marquis Harrison raised the question about why so many students show interest in supporting farmers on different continents, rather than in an event about diversity in their own environment. Many of the panelists thought the answer lay in diversity’s explosiveness.

“No one wants to be offensive,” freshman Tom Karo said. “People are too nervous about what they say. They should just say what’s on their mind.”

A student remarked that, while he lived in Africa, he had never thought that diversity was an important issue because everyone around him was black – he was the majority. When he came to America, he came face-to-face with the importance of diversity. He argued that the predominant race cannot see the value of diversity as well as minority races can.

“It is our job to make sure that we have a diverse environment,” Harrison said. “I hope that this is the starting point for discussion to help foster an inclusive and diverse environment for all students.”

Even though the audience members were enthusiastic about promoting diversity in the University, a large percentage of the student body appears apathetic.

After the forum, freshman Derrell Lipscomb reacted to the event. “They had good intentions, but it seemed like they were forcing diversity instead of promoting it? They kept saying how important diversity was, but never explained why,” he said.

“The paradox about diversity is that the more you experience diversity and diversify your friends, the more you discover you are more the same than you thought you were,” he added.

The panel reached the conclusion reached at the forum was that the audience should aim to accept.

“Student groups do have a lot of power to change the state of diversity on campus by actively making it one of their organization’s priorities,” Carter said.

Levy is a member of the class of 2011.

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