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Officials say student involvement is needed to support diversity

BY ANNA THEODOSIS | MARCH 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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Some students in multicultural organizations at the University of Iowa say they would like more opportunities to advocate for their presence on campus.

"[The UI] gave us a kiosk in the mall, but it's kind of hidden," said Sauvik Goswami, the vice president of the Indian Student Alliance. "We're not allowed to ask them if we can put up fliers for promotion."

Goswami said his organization shares the kiosk with the other 48 UI multicultural organizations, and they are not allowed to place advertising elsewhere for individual organizations.

The UI Student Government held a diversity summit Sunday to give students an opportunity to voice their concerns about multicultural organizations' representation on campus.

"The university has done enough initiatives where students aren't left alone the first few weeks," said Indian Alliance President Vaidehi Patel, referring to the freshman Orientation program, OnIowa. She said the UI should also sponsor similar campaigns throughout the year promoting diversity.

This academic year, UISG allotted roughly one third of its budget to the diversity organizations on campus, said UISG Vice President Brittany Caplin. Funding depends on the number of events each group organizes.

Getting more students to attend and promote multicultural events would also help, Goswami said.

"A lot of our meetings are open to the public," he said. "I think [students] attending meetings and doing little things can show [diversity] awareness."

Yet, Patel said, communication between the student organizations and UISG could improve.
"I think in the UISG, there's very little communication other than funding," she said. "Just an outreach would be cool."

Caplin said the student government wants to hear about problems multicultural organizations face with student involvement and promotion.

"Diversity is obviously a sensitive issue," she said. "Everyone has such a different opinion. We want to know what the issues are because we hear it from the top but not always from the students."

UISG is in the process of developing new student diversity initiatives, Caplin said, including an upcoming "Get to Know Me" campaign. The initiative, which is slated to run with the OnIowa program this fall, promotes students interacting with those of different cultural backgrounds.

UI Chief Diversity Officer Georgina Dodge said though the UI is doing a solid job of promoting diversity organizations, she agreed efforts to promote student organizations rely on student involvement.

"I think it's contingent on people to contribute," she said. "If a student organization holds an event and no one shows up, then it's not considered successful. Contribution doesn't need to be financial; it can just be showing up."

Dodge also said the UI could do a better job of advertising to students.

"I think we need to do a better job of letting people know that they are welcome," she said. "There's a lot that we can improve on, but I don't think it's unreachable."


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