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MOONEY: Finding common ground in diversity of opinion

The University is a unique place in which we can all work to address important issues plaguing the lives of our students, especially when it comes to inclusion

Put simply, this is a space created to promote diversity and to promote inclusion at the University.
Put simply, this is a space created to promote diversity and to promote inclusion at the University.

By now, pretty much everyone on Grounds has seen the infamous video surrounding the University’s Multicultural Student Center. 

While the sentiments expressed may have understandable origins, there are better ways to address the issues of inclusion and diversity in a multicultural setting such as the University. Rather than making others feel uncomfortable or excluded in some spaces, we should work towards understanding why some often feel unwelcome in other spaces and resolving those underlying issues so that all feel welcome in every space around Grounds. 

According to the University’s description of the space, the Multicultural Student Center is a “student-centered, collaborative space that supports underrepresented and marginalized communities, while cultivating the holistic empowerment of all students.” Put simply, this is a space created to promote diversity and to promote inclusion at the University.

With that being the case, I am curious about the underlying message that the student from the video was getting at. Do minorities here at the University feel like there are some places in which they are not invited — and is this space meant to provide an enclave for minority students?

From personal conversations with friends, I have become more aware of the prejudices that people face — even on Grounds — as they go about their daily lives. For example, I have consistently heard of problems with exclusiveness in Greek life. Others have told me of people making assumptions of inferior intellect due to the implications of affirmative action programs or involvement in athletics. Many minority students have felt like they are outsiders and that people judge them immediately by their appearance alone, rather than personal knowledge of who they are. As the student articulated in the video, many minorities feel like they aren’t included in certain circles, even study spaces. This is something we must work to change. 

However, implying that people are not welcome in a space is not the way to solve problems of exclusion in other spaces. It’s one thing to bring attention to a concern or remind people of the limited hospitality that some minorities face, but it’s entirely another to make others feel out of place and not welcome.

The area in question was designed to be inclusive of all races and ethnicities. Instead of creating a place in which minorities feel welcome, some feel that she developed a culture of hostility towards others, making others feel the same way she — and no doubt others at the University — have felt. 

There are much better ways to deal with these issues. For one, we can fight exclusion by promoting awareness and reminding people of the exclusion that certain minorities feel in other areas around Grounds. The world is an imperfect place. When there are injustices, shed light on them, by all means. However, we should shed light on these injustices without spreading even more contention. 

Additionally, as students, we should take it upon ourselves to listen to people when they feel excluded at the University. Proximity to issues of exclusion can be a powerful driving force for change. People can be excluded for a myriad of reasons — as a conservative, I have definitely felt hostility at the University. The majority of people here do not share my political views, but that is okay. 

But I have used these opportunities to discuss some major political issues with people that I disagree with on an individual basis by getting to know them. People are naturally drawn to other people who look and think like them, but that doesn’t mean spending time with them is the only course of action that is available. Embracing diversity presents a chance for all of us to grow. Inclusion is a better solution than exclusion. 

Everyone has a story. It’s up to us to listen. At the same time, we must be mindful of the different experiences that others may have had and not assert our own experience as the only one that matters.

Remember your words have power. And the greater University community must recognize that we have a unique opportunity here — an opportunity to use this instance of perhaps exclusionary language to begin a conversation about inclusion and how we can better support those in the University community who feel barred from many of our spaces. 

Ryan Mooney is a fourth-year in the College. 

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.