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Beth Erickson | Thursday, February 19, 2004

Mariel Downes, co-president of the Hawaii Club, rejects the label of ‘minority student’ that is so liberally applied at Notre Dame. After all, she comes from a region so culturally diverse that this label itself is foreign. “In Hawaii, there is hardly ever a need for such racial dialogue because of its diversity,” Downes said. “I have always been aware that being Asian made me part of a minority, but it was a minority that existed in places on the mainland, not Hawaii.” Because neither Asians nor Pacific Islanders are considered minorities in Hawaii, Downes resents the preset minority group in which the Notre Dame community routinely places her and holds little esteem for the University’s brand of diversification.Downes’ view of diversity sets her apart from leaders of other campus multicultural clubs, but unlike clubs geared towards students of different nationalities and ethnic groups, the Hawaii club unites students merely by statehood.”Many of the club members who are from Hawaii find themselves in an awkward position once reaching the University,” Downes said. “We often find ourselves pressured to perform as a token minority group when most of us have grown up completely unfamiliar with what it means to actually be a minority.”Upon acceptance to Notre Dame, she immediately received a flood of congratulatory letters from various campus minority groups. Then, as a freshman, she was irritated by the inundation of requests soliciting her help in increasing campus awareness of minority issues.”I specifically recall ripping up a letter asking me to be a host for spring visitation because I was offended at the wording in it requesting that I host someone in order to help the University recruit ‘students of color,'” she said. “I realized that diversity is an important issue on campus, but at the same time I was disgusted with the overabundance of references to ‘them’ and ‘us.'”