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Goswami: Cultural centers open to all

BY GUEST COLUMN | FEBRUARY 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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The UISG email account last semester received a message in response to our standard biannual reminder email regarding available study space on campus during the always over-crowded, high-stress finals week. This year, we made a point to include the hours of the UI Cultural and Resource Centers (better known as the “Cultural Centers”).

I was troubled by the inappropriate response of one student who wrote, “So I can study in the Afro-American Center even though I’m white?”

This student’s deliberate response embodies the persistent problem of engaging diverse interactions with students of different backgrounds and brings out the misconceptions of our university’s cultural centers. We made it a point in our email to state that all students are welcome at any of the Cultural Centers, whether it be the Afro-American Cultural Center, Asian Pacific American Cultural Center, Latino Native American Cultural Center, or the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resources Center.

The cultural centers are a “home away from home” for all students. No matter sex, gender, ethnicity, religion, students will find that each center is open for them to study, attend an event, or talk to someone new.

The cultural centers’ missions are to provide intra- and cross-cultural education for all students. In fact, they complement the university’s academic mission in creating an opportunity for students to learn and grow beyond the classroom.

Functionally, the cultural centers provide ample space, computer access, and additional resource materials and libraries. They provide welcoming all-inclusive social and meeting rooms, kitchens, and dining areas year-round. Such programs provide all students a chance to celebrate and stretch themselves to think about local and global topics. 

The Cultural Centers are also a great opportunity for all students to learn through workshops, forums, and discussion groups. They foster an environment for students to connect within their familiar communities and learn about new cultures.

A priority of the University of Iowa Student Government is to better inform and improve this campus. This term, we members have spearheaded the UISG diversity campaign known as the “Get to Know Me” campaign. 

With a new semester at hand, I now encourage students to move beyond first impressions and challenge themselves to discover the diversity around them. I ask students who have harbored similar misconceptions of the purpose and functionality of the Cultural Centers to expand their frames of mind and visit to engage firsthand with one of our campus’ rich centers.

Sauvik Goswami
USIG diversity liaison


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