Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative During Black History Month

The Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative sponsored a You in Mizzou dialogue on affirmative action Feb. 7 at Memorial Union in honor of Black History Month.

 

According to CDI, “(t)he You in Mizzou program is designed to give MU students, faculty and staff the opportunity to learn about a variety of hot topic issues as  well as challenges participants to respectfully discuss their differences and cover their similarities in a safe environment.”

 

In honor of Black History Month, February’s topic was: “Race-Conscious vs. Race-Neutral: How Do We Move Forward?”

 

Two dozen MU students and faculty attended the two-hour open forum. The discussion focused on what affirmative action means without racial quotas. This led to a debate on whether or not universities should consider a holistic view of an applicant when making admissions decisions.

Some participants felt affirmative action did not lead to true equality, and that race-neutrality levels the playing field. Others suggested the initiative is currently the only mechanism recognizing a history of unequal opportunities for disadvantaged students.

The group found consensus in the idea that quality education and diversity early on could provide truly equal opportunity for all students.

Marbyn Arevalo Avalos, a Latino graduate student at MU, enjoyed the conversation. “ It’s hard to find people who are passionate about race relations,” Avalos said. “I was pleasantly surprised at the level of discussion that took place.”

Sarah May, a white female graduate student, agreed with Avalos. “As a white multicultural ally, I often feel frustrated among other white people,” May said. “But I was encouraged by the open-mindedness and willingness to understand.”

Asian, black, Latino, white and mixed peoples participated in this dialogue. Some said their experiences as their ethnicity informed their viewpoints, while others argued their socioeconomic status and geographic culture influenced their world view more.

 

Ultimately, student-facilitator John Tan feels students can learn best when surrounded by peers different from themselves. “In finance, the more diverse your stock portfolio, the greater the returns,” Tan said. “That rule can apply to people, too. We can achieve more when diverse groups of people work together, because we contribute more to the end goal.”

 

You in Mizzou hosts dialogues the first Thursday of every month in Memorial Union.

 

Christina Turner