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UISG: Educate and challenge ourselves to eliminate discrimination

BY GUEST OPINION | FEBRUARY 07, 2012 7:20 AM

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Because of diversity training, the University of Iowa Student Government is now a stronger organization. On Jan. 21, more than 40 UISG members gathered to celebrate our differences and learn about one another by participating in the National Coalition Building Institute Diversity Workshop. With the leadership of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, members spent the day learning about diversity and discrimination issues and, more importantly, the unique backgrounds and experiences of our members that have shaped who we are today.

The Diversity Workshop is unique. Unlike most diversity training that focus on the subjects of culpability and white privilege, this diversity training emphasizes a variety of issues, including age, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and ethnicity. Stereotypes persist and discrimination continues against individuals in all of these areas. This is why all members of the university, staff, faculty, and students need to be conscious of the diversity issues in our community and work together to create an environment in which all are respected regardless of their backgrounds.

We can't deny that prejudice and discrimination exist on our campus. Many of us probably know a friend, a classmate, or a colleague who has experienced some sort of discrimination. We are often left vulnerable not knowing how to respond or deal with such situations. This is why it's vital that we challenge ourselves to learn how to advocate and support individuals in our community who have been mistreated simply because they are different. Through the Diversity Workshop, members of student government learned how to respectfully deal with and respond to conflicts of discrimination. The training teaches us how to facilitate those types of dialogue, and it empowers us as students to learn how to advocate for our peers.

As a student government, we are truly committed to better representing the diverse student body we are so fortunate to have at the UI. To do so, we need to be able to understand the challenges, the misconceptions, and the stereotypes students face in order to best advocate on behalf of our student body.

The Diversity Workshop is just the first step in the process to engage students to eliminate prejudice and discrimination on our campus, and it's necessary for us to approach this with an open mind and a willingness to learn about our differences and similarities. Student organizations should take advantage of this opportunity and participate in the Diversity Workshop.

As we continue our efforts to make the university a safe and welcoming environment, UISG is taking the necessary steps to officially designate its office as a "safe zone." Through the Safe Zone Project, select members of the legislative and executive branches will participate in safe-zone training to become visible allies of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people in our community. Once our office has become a safe zone, it will provide a welcoming area for LGBTQ students to utilize our office as a resource and a supportive environment.

We all need to be conscious of the role we play to make this campus a safe and respectable place for all. Even though it is difficult to eliminate prejudice or discrimination, we can make a difference by educating and challenging ourselves.

Kotheid Nicoue is the diversity advocate for UISG.


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