Column: Summer Welcome and Diversity Education

An analysis of the diversity education at Summer Welcome as an incoming freshman

Summer Welcome comes with a host of emotions — the nerves of an incoming freshman are high and the excitement is even higher. Going into Summer Welcome, I was informed by students who had attended before me, as well as upperclassmen, that diversity was a highly-covered subject. At first, this information was off-putting. For some reason, the prospect of a large talk about diversity was unnerving. It’s almost like sitting in your history class when the subject of slavery comes up. I could already feel the eyes of other students staring at me as they discussed the topics of inclusion and judgement.

Long story short, I was wrong. The topic of diversity was mentioned during multiple parts of the day in a way that made the subject less awkward than I had imagined. Throughout the day, Summer Welcome leaders explained resources available to multicultural students and parents, such as the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center and the Multicultural Center, as well as the different events they put on and the various organizations that stem from them.

What really piqued my interest was the diversity video presented to us. In the video, diversity was discussed by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who told us about the Equity Office, which is available to students who are dealing with situations in which they are made to feel uncomfortable by student peers. Even more importantly, he advised us that we will probably feel uncomfortable and that is how we will grow. At some points it seemed that the rumors about racially insensitive people would be true, especially in the diversity video when Tiffany Melecio, recipient of the Multicultural Leadership Award, told the story of how a truck full of Caucasian men drove by her screaming “Welcome to America” ironically as she walked through campus on her way to receive her award.

With so many students from small towns in rural Midwest areas, I could only imagine to how many the topic of diversity would be new. Almost all of us attending my Summer Welcome session were from large cities including Chicago, Atlanta and myself from Las Vegas. One of the friends I recently made looked at me while I was coming back from a group of other black students and told me, “I don’t want to be offensive, but this is the most black girls I’ve seen in my life. My town in Minnesota doesn’t have a lot of blacks.”

I turned and took a quick survey of the room and counted a total of five black girls in the room. And the number of black guys only increased our number by a handful.

It was off-putting to us as minority students that all of these people hadn’t seen many black people to the point where the sight of more than 10 was a shock. Obviously it’s a learning experience for all of us attending Summer Welcome. But it occurred to me that it is not only the responsibility of students who aren’t a member of a racial minority to accept and strive to understand diverse students, but it is also our responsibility as diverse students to and teach other students about us and our cultures. Ignorance is not bliss and it’s not someone else's fault when they are too ignorant to understand you. College is for education, and it is our job to educate those who are ignorant about diversity. So,as the diversity video said, "Inclusion is simply being respectful of others, and that is everyone's responsibility at Mizzou."

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