Asian American Students in Action hosted an open forum discussion concerning the role of the Multi-Cultural Center and the Minority Coalition Wednesday night in Spencer.
Students involved in MinCo organizations, Purple Druids, Garfield Republicans, College Council and Williams Christian Fellowship were asked to share their views concerning the interaction between the different organizations on campus. However, the discussion grew to include topics such as self-segregation and the physical space given to organizations on campus. Although students were active in these groups, they were not speaking on behalf of their organizations as a whole.
AAsia President Claire Shin ’99 introduced the topic, and after introductions were made around the room, the discussion began. Approximately 30-40 people were present.
CC Co-President Amanda Cowley ’98 said she did not think the different campus organizations were “recreating frats,” but that they could try to work together.
This was a common opinion of many students at the discussion. But reasons why there is little action between groups were unclear. CC Co-President Mac Harman ’98 brought up the issue of physical space on campus. The fact that the MCC and houses for various MinCo groups are situated behind the science quad represents a physical separation from the rest of campus. Whether this benefits these groups, giving them a place away from central campus, or whether it serves to separate these organizations was another question debated.
Former Garfield Republicans President Matt Jeffers ’98 questioned the general purpose of MinCo organizations. “These groups seem to be based on skin color, not experiences or culture,” he commented. He voiced that MinCo organizations should work more on inclusion rather than on superficial segregation.
“I was happy to see an environment in which everyone’s views could be heard and respected, but I’m still not sure I understand the logic behind taking a group of student organizations and segregating them en masse from the rest of the campus,” Jeffers said. “Several students mentioned the visual evidence that racial minorities tend to sit together in the dining halls and generally socialize with people of their own race, but given the assumption that this type of segregation is a bad thing, it didn’t seem like very much thought was given to the possibility that some of the race-based groups within MinCo are exacerbating the situation.”
But former MinCo Co-coordinator Lincoln Pan ’98 said “class segregation is more of a problem.” Pan stressed that MinCo is not just the Asian, Latino, and African American student organizations, but includes the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Union, and the Jewish Religious Center. “Though MinCo operates as a coalition, all the member groups have individual identities and by no means operate as a cohesive, uniform whole,” Pan said. “I was surprised to hear several people think the MCC and MinCo are a unified body fractured from ‘mainstream’ campus. Certainly, the MCC supports MinCo groups but its function extends far beyond student programming to important work in educating, supporting, and advising individual students,” Pan said.
Ethan Plunkett ’00, a member of the Purple Druids environmental organization and the Willliams Outing Club, acknowledged that there is “little minority participation [in WOC activities], although there has been been efforts to expand it.” He brought up the idea of using different activities to “connect people,” and perhaps encourage particpation from a wide range of students.
“I really appreciated the effort to bring together students of many different groups â€” not just MinCo groups but also our own Christian Fellowship,Garfield Republicans, Outing Club, and enviromental groups â€” to talk about what the role of such groups is on campus,” Harman said. “I think it was a productive beginning to such a dialogue, yet its success will primarily depend on whether such discussions continue. We raised some tough questions and it will take many discussions before we can come to some answers. I really hope that this dialogue continues throughout the spring.”
AAsia secretary Keikoh Sugiyama ’00 was involved in planning this discussion, and says she feels it was about time that students leaders met together.
“[The discussion] brought in people from outside MinCo into a discussion about MinCo and its relation to the rest of campus,which is definitely a healthy and necessary thing to do, in my mind,” Sugiyama said.
In the future, more discussions may be held to further the dialogue concerning some topics this particular forum did not cover.
“I wished the discussion was more focused on overall problems of campus self-segregation which happens with all organizations, including athletic, religious, cultural and political groups,” Pan said.