By Shayna Han
Last Tuesday, April 10, the Leadership in Diversity Council held their first meeting of the term.
The council’s objectives are to promote Union’s cultural competence, to increase understanding of culture amongst students and to thereby create a greater culture of acceptance at Union.
About 15 people were present, representing a variety of religious, racial and social clubs and organizations, including Círculo Estudiantil Latino Americano (CELA), UBreak, Greeks and Catholic Students Union.
During the meeting, Vice President of Multicultural Affairs Elite Williams ‘13 defined the Council as a “representative group of people with a common goal of including a more inclusive and embracive community at Union.”
According to Director of Multicultural Affairs Jason Benitez, it is also “the only council on campus … that attempts to be completely representative of all the different voices on campus.”
The council has met a few times in the past, but with the recent change of Vice President of Multicultural Affairs, who chairs the council, and the infrequent participation of the organizations involved, the council had problems gaining the necessary traction for it to be successful.
This time, however, Benitez hopes to gain what he terms the “buy-in” from Union’s many organizations, or, “making sure the different groups on campus are aware of the committee, making sure they’re committed to it and see value in it and want to attend the meetings.”
Benitez and Williams hope these short-term goals will be accomplished during the spring trimester.
Looking towards the fall trimester and the long-term, the Council hopes to support and increase participation in club events and programming and provide a basic culture of respect and understanding that will help Union students better succeed in today’s interconnected, diverse world.
Benitez feels that Union is “moving in the right direction with regard to diversity numbers-wise,” because “it brings a much richer and fuller experience to everybody attending Union when you have so many different perspectives.”
However, Benitez believes that “inclusion is another thing,” meaning that this aspect of a college “speak[s] to campus climate. It speaks to, ‘How open is our campus? How friendly is our campus? How racially and culturally sensitive is our campus?’”
Some already see the potential of the council, such as CELA President Andrew Viñales ‘13, who said, “People are always finding their niches… those niches are usually separated from people who are different from them.”
Viñales believes that this council will help “make Union have that inclusive environment” by making introductions between different people and allowing them to learn from one another and explore others’ backgrounds.
“It’s through our differences that we’re stronger because we actually are approaching issues from multiple perspectives,” Benitez elaborated.
Ultimately, the council wants “a campus where folks know how to be allies for each other, where people are going to be quicker to build each other up versus break each other down, where we’re supportive of each other.”
Benitez acknowledged the difficulty of that dream, concluding, “Diversity is everybody’s work.”
But as Viñales stated, “Leadership in Diversity is a great tool to have that happen.”