After a week of lectures, tabeling and diversity workshops, students were able to give their feedback on various events during Diversity Week at Plattsburgh State.
Diversity week was held Feb. 27 to March 5, where students and faculty attended events highlighting social justice, with the goal of developing a deeper understanding of the community.
Events ranged from tabeling, interactive workshops, panel discussions with faculty, guest speakers, art exhibits, and a film screening.
PSUC junior double major in chemistry and psychology Vickeuris Garcia was an active student during Diversity Week and went to several events, including the Know Better, Do Better: College, Racism, and YOU event.
Author of “Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses,” Lawrence Ross was the guest speaker for the Know Better, Do Better: College, Racism, and YOU event. Lawrence visited PSUC to discuss the history of campus racism and how students can prevent history from repeating itself.
Garcia said the event was well-planned, and she loved his delivery of his lecture.
“The way he engaged the crowd started out very strong. I loved the points he touched upon. I thought they were relevant to the campus and the nation,” Garcia said.
During Ross’s lecture, he mentioned historical figures who were racist, and Garcia said it really reinforced the idea of being progressive.
“When you go to campuses, often the historical buildings are named after people that were racist during their time, and schools tend to not react efficiently as students might want them to. It’s shocking to see how it’s nationwide,” she said, “You would think with how innovative we think we are, people are still backways with certain things.”
Garcia also attended the Tunnel of Oppression, an interactive exhibit that brought students through eight different rooms. Each room was dedicated to a different concept such as heterosexism, transphobia, racism, Islamophobia, sexism, ableism and North Country awareness.
“It was very impactful. It’s a lot of things people don’t tend to take into account about diversity,” Garcia said. We focus so much on race and forget to focus on ability and the LGBT community, so it opened our eyes up to something other than race.”
Garcia got involved with Diversity Week when her sorority Sigma Lambda Upsilon hosted an event called “I’m not a racist. I have a black friend.” The event addressed the “friend argument,” which is commonly used by people to justify prejudice about their “friends” in hopes to eliminate any accusations of racism, stereotyping and bigotry toward them.
“We focused on how you can still be racist even when you have friendships and relationships of different groups,” she said.
After attending all these events and hosting one with her organization, Garcia said it’s important to participate in Diversity Week for many reasons.
She believes it’s important to know that no matter how progressive their generation appears, there are always different perspectives to learn more about. She said that even though she might be knowledgeable in certain topics, it’s important to learn about other topics that haven’t crossed her mind.
“We are the people who will be getting jobs and representing and hopefully leading the new generation. It’s not only important for us to be aware of the issues we’re facing, but know how to combat them,” she said.
Senior elementary and special education program and president of Autism Speaks U Brenna Syslo tabled an event to erase the misuse of the “R-word.” The tabling included a poster for students to pledge against the use of the “R-word” and a true/false game with different facts about the “R-word.”
“We wanted to address the misuse of the ‘R-word,’” she said. “We wanted to educate our campus on the day to spread the word and end the word.”
Syslo said they included facts to show how many people use the R-word because people use it without knowing who it may impact. She said people are diverse in many ways including being diverse in ableism.
“The ‘R-word affects a majority of people. You don’t know who you’re affecting when you’re in class or walking down the street, so watch what you say because you never know who’s going to hear and be affected,” she said.
Author of the bestselling book Lies My Teacher Told Me, James Loewen, talked about misconceptions of the Civil War that were taught when he attended high school. He gave a lecture to students in Krinovitz Recital Hall in Hawkins Hall Mar. 4.
PSUC junior history major Kate Reilly said she thought the event was insightful. She said Loewen offered ways to rethink the past, so it became more interesting and accurate.
“I thought it was fitting because he talked about the Civil War and black positions,” she said.
Even though Reilly enjoyed the event she attended during Diversity Week, she did point out a problem she felt strongly about. She said there needs to be a much greater amount of promotion for the events.
“The only reason I say that is because I didn’t really hear about (Diversity Week) at all until this event and then after the fact,” she said.
Reilly said she thinks a better way to improve promotion is to have more public announcements and professors mentioning the upcoming events prior to Diversity Week. She said it was important to promote Diversity Week because it helps show different cultures and reinforces the idea that America is a melting pot.
PSUC freshman mathematics major and international student Alejo Pijuan agreed that there wasn’t enough promotion of the events. He said it’s not only important to promote the events, but to reinforce why it’s important to attend these events. Pijuan attended the Lawrence Ross lecture and said it was super interesting.
“I feel like there’s not enough promotion with the events. I mean the event was packed, but it was mainly sororities and fraternities,” he said.
He said racism is a systematic problem. Pijuan also said PSUC’s chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi’s members have talked about the same issues and have tried to understand different perspectives as well. Pijuan said that is something he gained from attending the Lawrence Ross lecture.
“Students will get a different perspective from attending events like these. People are used to the same voices and you get a different one with these types of talks,” Pijuan said.
Diversity Week was able to promote an inclusive environment at PSUC and strives to continue the conversation.
Email Kavita Singh at firstname.lastname@example.org