Seminar Seeks to Stamp Out Racism on CampusBy Rishi Shrivastava
The Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs sponsored a seminar called "Eliminating Racism" last Saturday.
The seminar aimed to help students and staff deal more effectively with race relations and to strive towards eliminating racism on campus, said Ayida Mthembu, assistant dean for counseling and support services. "We are training students to conduct these seminars for the future," Mthembu said.
Only 13 students attended the 7-hour seminar in the Black Students' Union room in Walker Memorial. The low turnout was a disappointment to organizers and participants.
Despite the low turnout, seminar participants were pleased by all they accomplished. "I thought it was pretty good. It was very conducive to the discussion," said Teresa Lau '95.
"Not only was it instructional and educational," but it also provided "an educational experience with something we can actually go out and apply," said Interfraternity Council President Prashant B. Doshi '95.
"It was good for people to talk about this stuff," said Pamela Prasarttongosoth '97.
Staff members of the Dean's Office ran the seminar along with other staff members from area universities. Susan D. Allen, adviser to student activities, and Mary E. Ni, assistant dean for residence and campus activities, attended the seminar.
Matt Ouellett, who works at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, was also very pleased with what the seminar accomplished. It was "a great beginning to bring people together about anxious topics. People really hung in there and brought a lot of things out," Ouellett said.
Participants discuss heritage
After introductions, the seminar participants learned definitions and divided into groups based on their ethnic affiliations. These groups then answered questions like: What do you like about your heritage? What do you dislike about your heritage? What comments do you not want others to make about your ethnicity?
The African American and Hispanic groups said they prided themselves on their culture, history, food, forms of communication, and creativity. The Asian American group, which included an Indian American, valued their history of strong women, intelligence, and food.
The groups also talked about what they did not like within their own cultures. African Americans were concerned discrimination within the African American community based on differences in shades of skin color, materialism, and being perceived by others as experts on racial prejudice.
Asian Americans felt that sexism, pressure to achieve, and lack of open communication were problems in their cultures. The Caucasian group said other people often express racist comments about minorities and expect them to agree. They said this expectation made them uncomfortable at times.
The seminar concluded after participants answered a set of three questions: What would the ideal MIT look like? How can race relations on campus be improved? What idea would you like to work on to improve race relations?
Staff members and students overwhelmingly agreed that the turnout was low. "There wasn't any diversity. There was only one Black student, one Latino student," Prasarttongosoth said.
Doshi also felt more people should have attended. "I wish more people would make a little more time in their schedules. If not at least for the academic experience, then at least to meet other people with an interest in similar issues," Doshi said.