University groups need to take an active stance to ensure inclusion on Grounds
RIGHT now we are at a critical moment with regard to student involvement in University organizations. In the last few weeks the average student probably attended the Fall Activities Fair, has been asked to join at least two dozen student groups and has seen chalk everywhere from his or her dorm room to the dining hall.
As students are considering which groups they would like to join, there are some serious considerations as well for the student groups looking to recruit them. Within the next few weeks, major student organizations such as the Honor Committee, Universitiy Judiciary Committee, the Minority Rights Coalition and others will be leading recruitment campaigns, and the idea of 'inclusion' should be a focal point within how those campaigns are managed.
In a recent editorial, "We are the leaders we've been looking for," I brought up the point that perhaps it is time to re-brand 'diversity.' 'Diversity' certainly has become a buzzword throughout our community. Here, however, is the problem with buzzwords: We use them so frequently that we often forget why we said them in the first place. The meaning of the word becomes overly simplified, and its power to inspire change is diminished.
Moving toward the idea of 'inclusion' from 'diversity' is the ideal. Yet one might ask, "What does inclusion really mean?" or, "Why is it so important?" I believe, in essence, that 'inclusion' means looking at a given situation and simply asking, "What voices are not being represented, or accounted for here?" Furthermore, one also might ask, "What more can we learn from those voices?" or, "Will inclusion of others take this project to the next level?"
'Inclusion,' unlike 'diversity,' connotes action at its core. For a student leader it means thinking with the other in mind; perhaps jumping into someone else's perspective and understanding a situation at the University from his or her viewpoint. The best way to make this happen on the organizational level is simply to have members of underrepresented communities at the University significantly represented within the organization's membership. Thus, inclusion should be a key part of that organization's recruitment strategy or practices.
For instance, within the next week the MRC and UJC will be planning a joint study session for UJC's membership entrance exam in September. The study session will be open to anyone in the University community, but it will be one of the best ways that students of underrepresented populations can be included in UJC's recruitment efforts.
Ultimately, the benefits of inclusion are long-term. New ideas or reflections on a group's activities may come in a way that they never would have previously. Old events can gain new life and major events will be sure to include the views of even the smallest minority in their vision. Consider this as the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches, and we reflect on the events themselves, those who lost their lives and the contributions of our men and women in uniform.
We think about what 9/11 means for us as a nation, and particularly for us as young adults who experienced those events in our most formative years. In our observance, however, let us not forget about how 9/11 unfortunately has affected those of Middle Eastern descent in this nation. We should praise the work of groups like the Middle Eastern Leadership Council who work tirelessly to frame positively the image and contributions of Middle Easterners throughout the world, and particularly at the University.
'Inclusion' simply is not the new 'diversity,' it is just a new ideal for which it is worth striving.
Evan Shields is the chair of the Minority Rights Coalition.