College ideal setting to embrace diversity

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College ideal setting to embrace diversity

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College is an exciting period of time in one’s life. For many young men and women, it is the first time they will be living away from home. There are more responsibilities, but there is also more time to devote to personal growth in many areas—mental, political and spiritual, to name a few.

College may be the first time one has the opportunity to experience cultures other than one’s own on a significant level, and students should take advantage of the events put on by many of SLU’s Chartered Student Organizations (CSOs). We at SLU have access to events and organizations that represent cultures from all around the world—you don’t even need to leave campus to experience them.

Many of these events are free, which is perfect for students on limited budgets. Others are low-cost ($5 or so). Some even serve food; the Center for Global Citizenship’s monthly Cultural Taste Series offered free Lithuanian food to students and faculty just this week. Combining free food with the chance for people to learn more about another culture is a winning recipe.

It’s important that we challenge ourselves to experience new cultures while at SLU. After all, when again will any of us have the chance to interact with groups like SLU’s Korean Student Organization or African Student Association? Yes, there are similar groups that exist outside of our college campus, but they will never be more conveniently located than they are right now. If you have the time to play video games after class, you have the time to get out and experience a new cultural tradition that you may never have known about. It takes very little effort, and the potential for growth is huge.

One of the biggest problems facing the U.S. today is discrimination, whether direct or indirect. We have seen it with the fiery rhetoric against Syrian refugees, or the remarks from presidential candidates supporting comprehensive databases of all American Muslims. We see it every day against minority communities, be they black, Latino, Asian American.

Discrimination is often perpetuated by those who know very little about the groups they are harming. When you isolate yourself from people of different cultural backgrounds, it is easier to think of them as the “other” and treat them differently – often worse – because of it. And even though it may be hard to accept or admit, there is discrimination at SLU. Don’t believe us? Just check out SLU’s Yik Yak on any given night.

After a series of bias incidents took place at SLU in 2010, the school created the Oath of Inclusion, which all students are expected to follow during their time here. It tackles the issue of discrimination on campus and offers the idea that all members of the SLU community should be not only open to other cultures, but should work directly with them to “foster a community that welcomes all by recognizing the inherent dignity of each person.”

“I will embrace people for the diversity of their identities, creating a community inclusive of race, ethnicity, sex, age, ability, faith, orientation, gender, class and ideology,” the Oath says. “I will challenge my worldview through education inside and outside the classroom. I will show that I am proud to be a Billiken by enriching the culture of our University.”

As Billikens, we should all be working to fight discrimination, and one of the ways we can do that is to make sure that we are knowledgeable about other cultures. The events held by many of SLU’s CSOs give us the opportunity to do just that, and we should take those groups up on their offers. A SLU community united through diversity is a strong SLU community. We should all be actively involved in making that SLU community a reality, rather than a goal for the future.

Don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from it.