A Diverse 360: Two Sides to the Struggles of Diversity at UIUC

You can check out our Diverse Campus Video Package here! Read the story that goes along with it below!

Diversity is an incredibly important issue to most in today’s society. Out of 7 billion people in the world, no one is ever the same person. With a continually growing campus like that of the University of Illinois, diversity becomes increasingly important as the campus size grows. That being said, diversity doesn’t come easy, and change, though a good thing, may often come with its own adversity.

The University’s Office of Inclusion recently held a “International Week,” that sought to embrace the diversity we have on campus, and to welcome the expansion, growth, and embrace of that diversity. InternationalWeek was also held the same week as the University’s 150th birthday celebration.

Professor Ken Salo, a lecturer in urban and regional planning who focuses on environmental justice, environmental racism, and diversity, said that the University and diversity have been closely tied over history, especially today.

Professor Salo stated that “We’ve [in the world] seen now a period of resurgent racism, and the students have responded and the question is to compare and contrast the tactics and strategies then,”

Professor Salo also organized a student exhibit inside of Temple Buell Hall during the time when most of UIUC was celebrating the University’s 150th birthday, which was brought in by a week-long celebration that celebrated the history of the University.  

The exhibit looked to tell a different story to that of which most of the University would be celebrating. The exhibit looked to shed a different light on the struggles, and sometimes turmoil, that the University has gone through in regards to diversity.

Salo said that “The purpose of [the event] is to, amongst other things, provide a counterpoint to the sesquicentennial story which really doesn’t focus too much on student protests.”

The exhibit featured several pieces, which showed images and documents that painted the picture of what the process of increasing diversity at the University looked like, and the struggles that people have gone through.

“The way we tell history, there are many ways into it, there are many lenses,” Salo said about the celebration of the University’s 150th birthday. “So from an official perspective, not surprisingly, they will have a very celebratory narrative of the institution, because that’s what it is, a celebration. That is not wrong, it’s just incomplete.”

Professor Salo and his students’ exhibit was just one of many events that happened during International Week and the university’s birthday. The week was comprised of numerous events of all sorts across campus that occurred due to the University’s birthday celebration, International Week, and many other events.

One more event that week sought to showcase the diversity that the university has, and at the same time allow students and faculty to showcase their own talents.

The “Hear My Voice Diversity Fest” was organized by the Hear My Voice organization registered student organization at the University, and was held at the Illini Union’s Courtyard Café. Any and all students and faculty alike were invited to come and showcase their own talents, ranging from singing, spoken word, poetry, amongst others.

Terry Cole is an academic advisor for the University of Illinois College of Media, and is the Vice- President for Hear My Voice.

 

“I got involved with Hear My Voice because I was concerned with students not having a voice on campus.” Cole said.  “What is most important for me is being able to say to a student that there’s a place, a person, people, out there that want to help mentor you and guide you.”

 

Anisa McClinton is a student who is also the manager of Hear My Voice, and she says that the message of the organization was what drew her to Hear My Voice.

“Giving the voice to the voiceless is something that a lot of journalist want to do at this school,” McClinton said. “We want to tell story in a positive light and give people who were negatively portrayed in the media that opportunity to show that it’s not all stereotype, it’s not all going to be negative.”

McClinton also said that even if the audience didn’t participate or perform, it was still a very beneficial way to showcase the diversity we have on campus. “For the students who weren’t involved with Hear My Voice, and were just there and didn’t perform, I thought it was uplifting that they got the messages of the event from just sitting in the audience.”

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