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Workshop addresses race relations in dorms

Brooke Kovanda | Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday night was a night of awareness, understanding and acceptance of multiculturalism on Notre Dame’s campus.  

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), a Latino student activist group promoting social reform, student government and the Diversity Council presented a workshop on race relations in residence halls in Geddes Hall.

Senior Maya Younes, the diversity representative for MEChA, organized the workshop, centered around discussing challenges in promoting multiculturalism in dorm life and eliminating instances of discrimination through racial awareness.

“Conversations on discrimination in dorms have been occurring on a small scale across campus and I realized that in order to make long-lasting improvements to the experience of multicultural students in dorms, we needed to open that conversation to administrators who directly oversee housing,” Younes said. “Part of the movement to creating a better community is sharing your experience with others.”

The event began with a story regarding racial conflict in one of the residence halls, and followed with small groups of students and peer mediators discussing their reactions, findings and personal experiences with race relations in residence life.  

Two central topics of workshop were the “Spirit of Inclusion” and “Awareness.”  

When discussing the “Spirit of Inclusion,” many students identified the size of their dorm as a crucial factor in cohesion among residents, as well as the level of comfort felt in interactions with rectors and resident assistants.  

Senior Amanda Meza said it is important for students to feel that they are respected within their residence halls.

“You have one space on the entire campus that you can call yours, and you have to share it your freshman year, so it’s really sacred to feel at home,” she said. “We have to live with one another and deal with one another, and a huge thing about the ‘Spirit of Inclusion’ is respect. I’d like to see more action and communication.”  

Students at the workshop also considered the impact cultural events had on creating consciousness about other ethnicities.

Sophomore Omar Garcia explained his approach to promoting cultural awareness among his friends.

“It was more like trying to have everybody else understand where you’re coming from,” he said. “So I know last year, one of the things I did [to have my roommates understand where I was coming from], was I would try to invite them to dinners I made or events so they could kind of understand me culturally to eliminate the issue of ignorance and promote sensitivity to certain things.”

The workshop concluded with students filling out evaluations and surveys that would provide invaluable information needed to create changes in dorm life.

Younes said this was the first of many workshops and discussions to come.

“We are all part of the same community and must live in solidarity with each other to create a welcoming environment for all, regardless of race, ethnicity or belief,” she said. “This conversation fulfills the mission of Notre Dame by promoting a community where everyone has a voice.”