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Events planned to discuss diversity

Peter Leahy | Monday, January 31, 2005

In an effort to promote dialogue about issues such as race and religion, the Notre Dame student government declared this week to be “Diversity Week.” To facilitate discussion, there will be events addressing different issues about diversity on campus so students can express their concerns and hear what others have to say.

Nick Coleman, Diversity Week chairman and chair of the Senate Committee on Diversity Affairs, said there is a need for more diversity on campus, citing that Notre Dame’s religious, ideological and racial make-up is too homogenous.

“Our committee has been seeing that Notre Dame isn’t a very diverse place,” Coleman said. “[The week’s purpose] is to try to open up discourse for tolerance of other people.”

On Wednesday, the events begin with “Interrace,” a discussion of racial issues on campus. It will be held at 5:30 in the Coleman-Morse Center. Diversity Week Chairman Nick Coleman explained that “Interrace” meets monthly at the Center for Social Concerns and takes an open forum form.

“It’s a discussion about what’s going on [on campus],” Coleman said. “This month’s topic is about the climate of diversity.”

Later Wednesday night, Badin Hall is holding an African Spiritual Mass open to all students to support religious diversity.

Thursday is “We are ND” T-shirt day. Student body president Adam Istvan, vice president Karla Bell and chief executive assistant Dave Baron have asked that students unite and wear their green “We are ND” T-shirts-or any green shirt-to demonstrate student support of the report they are making to the Board of Trustees Thursday afternoon. The subject of the report is diversity of gender, race and sexuality, featuring testimonials from student discussion during recent focus groups.

“They [Istvan, Bell and Baron] want to unite the student body behind their report,” Coleman said. “It’s kind of a big statement to the Board of Trustees that something needs to be done about diversity.”

This sentiment is shared by students as well as the student body leaders. Freshman Briana Duncan says that she notices the lack of diversity on campus.

“I definitely think that there’s a lot of room for [more] diversity,” Duncan said. “I think race relations and religious issues could be improved upon.”

Sophomore Dave Lewis shared Duncan’s feelings in regards to the variety of religion on campus.

“I think that we need more religious diversity. It is always good to broaden your proverbial horizons,” he said.

Lewis took a different view on racial diversity on campus, however.

“I think we have a pretty good mix of people however [diversity] is more than just being here, it’s about how you interact,” he said.

Lewis also added that there is a difference between the way multicultural and majority students are treated on campus that bothers him.

“What I don’t like about it is that I’m a multicultural student and that’s the only reason why I knew about [Diversity Week],” he said.

Both Duncan and Lewis said they will attend some of the scheduled events and agree that Diversity Week is a start, but discussion about diversity needs to be carried throughout the year.

One of their concerns-religious diversity-will be addressed Thursday night at a round-table discussion among students and faculty in the Coleman-Morse Center from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The events to be held Friday and Saturday are aimed at providing a relaxing and fun environment for students. The Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS) comedy show is Friday at 10 p.m. at Legends.

“Students can relax, have fun, and celebrate people’s diversity,” Coleman said of the comedy show.

The week concludes on Saturday with Mike Jacob’s performance of Cherokee music at the Kroc Institute at 7 p.m. Coleman urged students to go.

“You can broaden your horizons a little bit,” he said. “You can experience something new and have a good time.”

Overall the week is intended to make students feel more comfortable on campus, Coleman said.

“We want to discuss race, religion and gender without feeling like people are criticizing us,” Coleman said.