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Ithaca College Holds First Diversity Town Hall Meeting

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In light of Michael Brown, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and the ongoing national debate regarding institutionalized racism, students at Ithaca College held the school’s first diversity town hall meeting. Student leaders gathered this afternoon to discuss and brainstorm ideas to work toward a more diverse campus, focusing primarily on diversity issues related to the college’s African, Latino/a, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) community, but also including topics such as gender and sexually.

Instead of just talking about the issue, students were asked to come up with specific solutions to problems in which they feel are directly related to a lack of diversity on campus. Maybe someone of color was given odd looks as soon as they stepped into a room full of white people. Maybe someone received microaggressive comments from a peer and didn’t know how to handle it. Maybe there aren’t enough professors of color in a school. How can we address these issues, and, more importantly, what are we going to do to prevent these things from happening again?

School administrators sat in on the meeting and took note of the various suggestions that students had for diversifying the campus. Students also participated in a series of discussion-based activities, such as filling out an identity worksheet in order to share the most salient parts of their identity.

The town hall meeting today served as the infrastructure to a future of possibilities. The idea here was to start planning a course of action–what can we do as students to help make the campus a more inviting place for students of color? We’ve had endless discussions about the problem, so now it’s time to actually do something about it.

Learning To Recognize Microaggression

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Earlier this week, Ithaca College’s student run newspaper, The Ithacan, published a special opinion piece written by a student. The commentary, which was in response to the release of the school’s 2012 campus climate survey results, primarily focused on the issue of microaggressions still being perpetuated throughout the campus.

According to Psychology Today, microaggressions are defined by the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. A racial microaggression, therefore, would be if a white woman clutched her purse as a person of color walked by on the street, suggesting that their minority group can be dehumanized to merely a bunch of criminals

Perhaps the bigger issue here, however, is that there aren’t a lot of people in our society who are able to recognize them.

A while back, I wrote a piece talking about the various microaggressions I’ve personally had directed toward me. Looking back on it, what struck me the most about writing this piece is the fact that I myself wasn’t able to be conscious of the microaggressive comments I was hearing on a daily basis.

“Where are you really from? You look kind of exotic. You speak English so well for an immigrant! You don’t even act Hispanic.” These were meant to be compliments.

What most–let’s be frank–white people don’t realize is that microaggressions have been hardwired into our culture, allowing those in the majority to sincerely believe that they are not doing anything offensive. An article published in the American Psychological Association suggests that microaggressive comments are made by “well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them”.

There are times where jokes can be made and certain questions can be asked. But we need to educate ourselves on what exactly we are perpetuating when we comment on a specific racial group. Race, in general, is meant to act as a political categorization technique derived as far back as the 15th century. How can we progress as a society if we aren’t able to be aware of racializations?

Maybe we should have paid more attention in elementary school when our teachers taught us to “think before we speak”…

Ithaca Celebrates Black History Month With Communal Events

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February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and learn about the vast historical milestones of blacks around the world. From Jackie Robinson to Maya Angelou, this particular month celebrates both people and events that illustrate just how important it is to promote the education of significant black historical figures who have influenced today’s society.

From a more local point of view, February is a time for the people of Ithaca to commemorate the different cultures spread across the town, as well as within Ithaca College. Promoting both diversity and a communal education, “Ithacans” gathered to create a broad celebration of the different features of black culture.

Ithaca College’s African Latino Society (ALS) held a string of events throughout the month to promote said education on campus, each focusing on a different theme regarding black history and/or current political, social and cultural issues related to race and ethnicity. The events ranged from a screening and discussion of the film Brown Sugarto lectures on selected topics.

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