This past week students from across the University worked together to celebrate a week dedicated to the diversity within our student body. Diversity Week was a collaborative effort between Student Council, the Black Student Alliance, Global Student Council, United for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity, Paul Robeson Players, Flux and the Indian Student Association.
The week included art exhibitions, movie screenings, language panels, dance workshops and an open mic night.
Yini Li, second-year Commerce student and Global Student Council’s project leader for Diversity Week, worked throughout the semester to coordinate events.
“Global Student Council hosted three events: arts exhibitions, language panels and a dance workshop,” Li said. “Knowing what students wanted to learn about is critical as for an event planner.”
According to Student Council’s Grounds for Change page, the goal was to “to raise questions about Diversity and Inclusion at U.Va., as well as to bring diverse groups of students together.”
While the events this week shed light on the need for more diversity at the University, Li thinks there is still some work to be done.
“I do not think diversity is appreciated enough at U.Va. Even though most people are aware of diversity, we still have a long way to go,” Li said. “I don’t think there is enough attention on publicizing or putting up the events regarding diversity.”
Another group who played a prominent role in Diversity Week’s success was the Black Student Alliance. Second-year College student Janetta Parker was co-chair for “All Around the World,” a multicultural celebration featuring different groups such as the ISA and the Latino Student Association.
“[All Around the World fosters] belonging, unity, and pride for the diverse populations of different backgrounds that are attending the university,” Parker said. “We intended to explore aspects of culture, while increasing awareness of all the communities currently inhabiting the University of Virginia. At this event, students’ photographs were displayed, while having spoken word and an acappella group performance.”
This week was Parker’s first experience with planning an event dedicated to University-wide diversity. While some aspects of the event were logistically difficult to plan, she said the event’s turnout and response were overall positive.
“Some successes of the event are that we had good [number] of ethnic groups represented and we were able to highlight student talent,” Parker said. “I loved watching my friend's perform spoken word and listening to the authenticity of Ektaal, the Indian a cappella group on grounds.”
Jahvonta Mason, third-year Batten student and co-chair of Student Council Diversity Initiatives Committee, planned a variety of events for this week, including the language corner, dance workshop, movie screening of Girl Rising, art expos and open mic night.
“The biggest roadblocks were getting buy-in from a enough groups to turn this Grounds for Change into a week's worth of events,” Mason said. “However, I think that is typical of initiatives that have never been done before. I expect that for next year's chance it will much less difficult because groups on grounds will have a greater desire to be part of the week's events.”
While diversity is gradually being integrated into the University’s environment, those involved find there is still much room for improvement.
“I think diversity at the University is very well appreciated by the peoples and groups who find belonging in diverse and marginalized communities,” Mason said. “I think diversity is much less appreciated by the wider student body, and I think there is not enough understanding of the unique struggles of historically marginalized people.”
The sponsors of this event plan on making it an annual celebratory week.
“We intend to make this event annual, although we would have it in the fall instead of the spring,” Parker said. “It is important to appreciate the diversity at the University of Virginia because the University itself is diverse and should strive to make sure all students feel included and part of the community.”