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Meghanne Downes | Thursday, February 19, 2004

ill Herbert loves to dance and so does the first friend he made at Notre Dame, Mark Tupas. Through their mutual love of dancing and friendship, Herbert discovered a new culture and formed a group of friends in which he found himself – a white male – to be ironically a minority. Though Herbert was used to only dancing at parties, Tupas drew upon his heritage and took his dancing to the stage. After much convincing, Herbert joined the Filipino American Student Organization and soon found himself performing traditional Filipino dances for the club’s spring show, Fiestang.Herbert said going to dance practices was easy because he was there to dance; yet he was still nervous. “I guess I was nervous because it was different and I was white,” Herbert said. “Looking back it seems kind of silly.”Herbert said he did not want to be the “big dumb white kid” who looked out of place during performances. However, he knew he would stand out and had to be perfect with his dancing.The more he danced, the more friendships he developed and Herbert realized that it made sense to become more involved with FASO because of whom he became friends with.He admitted that every once in a while he and his friends will joke about how he, a white student, is in an active participant in an ethnic club, but he said he always feels welcome and his presence has never been an issue. However, people outside of FASO have questioned his presence. Herbert thinks these are rather natural questions as it is unusual on this campus for students to do what is not expected of them.”I think sometimes I get that resistance,” Herbert said. “It will be a real anonymous thing like Spring [Visitation]. I have always been a host and well the prospectives seem a little surprised. Though they are my peers, they are younger, so they don’t say anything.”However, not everyone conceals their suspicions or suppresses their opinions.At activities fair night and other programming events he participates in, he said there are always students, including Asian students, who give him puzzled looks and are reluctant to listen to his pitches to become involved in FASO because it seems awkward to them that the face of an Asian ethnic club would not be Asian.Herbert learned to overlook the bewildered glances and became more involved in the organization. He helped plan In Focus and danced traditional dances such as the Maglalatik and Tinikling at Asian Allure, Fiestang and various other MSPS events.Though Herbert may not be Asian, he does rely upon his own experience to successfully draw students into the club.”It’s the quietest ones who are on the edge that you bring into the fold and try to make them feel as welcome as much I was – particularly for a lot of mixed race students,” Herbert said.Herbert said there are not many other non-Asian students like himself who are involved with FASO; however, this ethnic boundary does not simply exist between Asians and non-Asians, but on a more micro-level amongst Asians.Though there are several non-Filipino Asian students who participate, Herbert said this is a rather significant step for these students, as their heritages and ethnicities are distinct.Herbert said that one of the problems at Notre Dame is that students do not realize that diversity is not something that is a given but that requires being open minded and seeking out this diversity.”One of the most common complaints is ‘why do all the black kids sit together in the dining hall?'” Herbert said, “They probably ask the same thing. You have to be willing to put yourself in the situation where you are the minority in order to learn.”He said Notre Dame is an interesting place for diversity due to its small concentrated community, which creates much solidarity amongst minority ethnic groups as opposed to larger state schools, which are more culturally diverse, where ethnic clubs are not as predominant or strong.”In terms of diversity here, Notre Dame isn’t the place to go if you want to walk around and see a rainbow of faces,” Herbert said. “If you are really into something, you can find people of similar interests who are of different color.”For Herbert, his interest in dancing acted as the bridge.Herbert said this is the mentality he tries to spread amongst his white friends. Though his white friends, who do attend events, usually do not take an active interest in joining FASO, Herbert said he believes the socializing aspect between his two groups of friends is beneficial because it at least brings them together so they can start to see life from a different perspective and to begin to talk about issues.”My opinion is [diversity] is something that has got to be worked on. People shouldn’t avoid the school. I think it’s a contribution we can make. I didn’t come here because of the football but because it was a good school. A lot of people come here looking for a specific type of environment – I expected to come here finding good academics and to find myself – something that I have done.”