LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Diversity awareness at Union

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By Letter to the Editor

The Jan. 17 ‘Simply Izzy’ blog written by Isabelle Edwards ‘15, “Good Intentions; Bad Outcomes,” and the Jan. 20 Daily Gazette article by Justin Mason, “MLK menu offends some at Union College,” misrepresented the focus of the Martin Luther King Jr. menu controversy. At first glance, the offense was blamed on the lack of diversity at Union or cultural insensitivity by our Dining Services department.

In fact, the events unfolded after an African-American student witnessed mockery of the menu by some students, which displayed their ignorance of African-American cuisine. As an opportunity for cross-cultural learning, this occurrence prompts us to assess how Dining Services provides a context for its menu choices and for the campus community to become more aware of the existing diversity.

Understanding different cultures is a priority at Union College. Our more than 2,100 students come from 40 states and 40 countries, and 18 percent are from diverse backgrounds. Student groups range from the African and Latino Alliance of Students to the Asian Student Union, Círculo Estudiantil Latinoamericano and Muslim Students Association. The student- run International Cultural Week is just one of many popular events that promote globalism and respect for diverse cultures.

We have a strong office of Multicultural Affairs, and as director of the Africana Studies program, I can attest to the varied course offerings examining social, artistic, political and historical contributions of African Diaspora heritage. Students are aware of these academic opportunities, and many take advantage of them.

I hope the few students who ridiculed the Martin Luther King Jr. menu on the day we celebrate his legacy will avail themselves of Africana course offerings to broaden their awareness of other cultures.

Deidre Hill Butler, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Sociology & Director of Africana Studies

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