Students discuss multilingual national anthem

The Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative creates an opportunity for students to discuss controversial issues with peers.

For four years, You in Mizzou has brought students and faculty together to have creative dialogues that give students the opportunity to communicate with each other about different topics.

Started by MU alumni in 2009, the original objective of You in Mizzou was to give faculty the opportunity to hear the voice of students.

“(You in Mizzou) is a safe place for students to be able to communicate about difficult issues on campus, the nation or even international topics,” said Charlie Parker, Diversity Programs coordinator for the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative. “This is a place where differences can be heard from a simple standpoint. There’s no bad perspective because everyone has their own perspective.”

Twenty-four students gathered in Memorial Union South for the first You in Mizzou dialogue of the school year Sept. 4.

The topic for the first dialogue was whether the U.S. is ready for a multilingual national anthem, but the conversation expanded to include other relevant issues.

Students discussed the balance between language and identity, the merits of the American educational system and the American expectation that people will globally speak English.

“To me, multilingualism is second nature, but to a lot of Americans, it isn’t,” said junior Vera Tan, a new ambassador for the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative. “I was interested in hearing what other people had to say about this topic.”

Tan grew up in Malaysia before moving to the U.S. her sophomore year to attend MU.

She said moving from one country to another gave her a unique perspective on the topic of multilingualism, as in Malaysia many languages are typically spoken in conversation, including English, Malay, Mandarin and Cantonese.

Tan said she believes it’s very important for people to be open not just to accepting other cultures, but understanding them.

“I enjoy these kinds of things because you get different perspectives,” she said. “It’s more about putting yourself out there, not for your own gain, but so you can help other people with your understanding.”

Senior Danielle Levy is the lead ambassador for the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative. She first attended a You in Mizzou dialogue her sophomore year. Now, she is responsible for facilitating the discussions and preparing specific conversation topics and questions.

Levy said since her sophomore year, the program has changed for the better, growing and becoming more structured.

“Tonight’s discussion went really well,” she said after the Sept. 4 meeting. “At other (discussions) in the past, we haven’t had as big of a turnout, and there wasn’t as much discussion. We got a lot of people to speak today, so that was really exciting.”

Levy said she hopes that this year, the program will be successful enough to sustain itself and grow.

“It’s at risk of becoming smaller, and I want it to get bigger and better,” Levy said. “We had a really great turnout today, but I want even more people to come to the next one.”

In the future, Parker hopes to take the discussions to the next step, to give students skills they need to implement change outside the dialogues.

“We want to give students the tangible skill sets to be able to effectively bring about change,” Parker said. “We’re always looking to evolve and fill a need that isn’t already being filled.”

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