Diversity panel brings MU leaders to residence halls

The event addressed racism and violence issues on campus.

The Hawthorn, Galena and Dogwood Diversity Dialogue events have three rules: no question is a stupid question, ask and have fun.

About two-dozen students put those rules into action at the first Domino’s and Dialogues event, a roundtable discussion put on by the Hawthorn, Galena and Dogwood Residence Halls to encourage diversity. Organizers plan to hold the event annually.

The round-table discussion brought panelists from the MU community, including representatives from the residence halls and the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.

“We want to make sure our residents have a sense of gratitude for diversity and be inclusive individuals,” Hawthorn Community Advisor Xavier Billingsley said.

Topics during the panel ranged from diversity issues on campus to the world.

Among the issues discussed were the recent instances of sexual violence in Columbia, particularly the reported case of rape outside Laws Residence Hall.

“A lot of times when a sexual assault happens, the victim gets blamed,” Billingsley said. “I have a problem with people who try to judge.”

Statistically, 1.3 women are raped every minute, which equates to 78 rapes each hour, Residential Life Area Coordinator Maya Hernandez said. Panelists and students discussed how often rapes are not reported and ignored.

“For us to want this campus to be the kind of place to feel safe and OK in, it takes all of us working together,” BCC Coordinator Nathan Stephens said. “Quite frankly, it can’t be just for one instance to be considered wrong and another to simply be downplayed.”

Prevention efforts were discussed, including asking friends to join a buddy system, or to call MU Police Department or STRIPES for an escort or ride.

Panelists also discussed issues of racism on campus, particularly touching on the graffiti written outside Hatch.

“This area serves 1,200 to 1,300 students,” Hernandez said. “This is not just ‘the Hatch incident.’ This is a campus and community issue.”

The event largely focused on empowerment among students.

“You are your largest barrier,” Diversity Programming Manager Noor Azizan-Gardner said. “It’s really important that you are able to give each other space to learn from each other. We’re all here to learn together.”

She advised getting to know people of a different culture as the best way to gain insights into diversity.

“Book knowledge is one thing,” she said. “The second thing is when you try to start exploring. Make friends with someone of a difference race, even date someone of a different race.”

Azizan-Gardner also presented statistics on MU’s diversity. The campus is 86 percent Caucasian and 6 percent African American. There are fewer than 10 students who identify themselves as Native American on campus, she said.

“Talking about diversity is really uncomfortable for a lot of people,” Residential Life Area Coordinator Tyler Page said. “You feel more comfortable in not knowing, but you have to seek it out. It’s not going to come to you.”

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