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Students Plan Awareness Week

By Eva Moy
Contributing Editor

The first week of April will mark MIT's first multicultural awareness week, with speakers and activities organized by an alliance of student groups.

Entitled "Stand Up, Stand Out, Speak Out: A Week of Multicultural Solidarity," activities will include discussions on hunger and human rights, violence against women, environmental racism, and the display of a collage in Lobby 7. The activities will conclude with a rally on the steps of the Student Center.

"We dedicate the week to celebrating our diverse histories, protesting the myriad injustices against us, drawing inspiration from our past struggles against these injustices, and articulating our visions for a just future," said Basav Sen, one of the coordinators.

The alliance "is not a group per se," said Alan L. Shihadeh, one of the event's organizers, but "groups that have come together to promote politics of multiculturalism."

The alliance includes members of several campus groups including Lucha, Mujeres Latinas, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Friends at MIT, Hunger Action Group, Amnesty International, Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, The Thistle, Share A Vital Earth, MITStudent Pugwash, and the Committee for Social Justice.

Some groups were hesitant about joining the alliance, Shihadeh said. "I think that our lack of feeling safe enough to raise our voices with others who are fighting oppression here underscores the need to dismantle the cultural domination we experience as third world peoples in the first world. Why is it safe for some people to speak out but not others?" he said.

MIT not safe from discrimination

"On the pretext of a technical education, social issues are almost completely ignored, so MIT graduates do not place their technical education within a social and political context," Sen said.

Coordinator Shamim M. Islam '96 agreed. "MIT hasn't always been and need not be an apathetic, detached environment, where too many people function unaware of their world around them."

"We keep hearing of reverse discrimination and special rights, and the alleged tyranny of political correctness," Sen said. "Not only is this untrue, but blatant discrimination and inequality are still widespread. They never went away; in fact they are growing."

Sometimes efforts like the multicultural alliance are seen as angry, Sen said. "Though anger is often stereotyped as being destructive, we see anger directed against injustice with the goal of overcoming it to be a profoundly constructive sentiment. We intend this to be the first step to building something more long term."

Coordinator Prashant Sinha G wanted to get involved as part of learning about the history of such injustices. "We are fighting the pride and greed and prejudice that creates such legislation," he said. "Hopefully by educating those around us, we fight apathy and produce socially responsible citizens."