At Monday’s Student Association Executive Council meeting, SA members took time to promote events being held during Diversity Week and to strategize how to expand diversity at Plattsburgh State. President Michael Kimmer discussed the idea of diversity outreach with the rest of the council.
He asked them to consider how the school is doing in terms of exploring diversity. He also asked if the council believed the cultural initiatives were being executed properly, as a discussion point of outreach.
SA Vice President of Student Affairs Arin Cotel-Altman suggested holding a diversity or multicultural club fair to raise awareness for all of the clubs on campus that embrace culturalism.
One of the events promoted at Monday’s meeting was the “Tunnel of Oppression.” The event, which was coordinated, in part, by SA Speaker of the Senate Alex Meseck, featured different issues and stereotypes in American culture. Meseck was responsible for developing two “rooms” in the tunnel: the “heterosexualism room” and the “transphobia room.” Both rooms tackled issues facing the LGBT community.
Meseck, who is also the president of the LGBT Student Union, wanted to help shed light and provide resources to the event.
Meseck grew up in a religious family in California, and he said diversity has been a common theme in several social aspects of his life.
“Obviously, being the president of the LGBT Student Union, you can assume that I’m gay or at least part of the LGBT spectrum in some shape or form,” Meseck said.
“So that’s one way in which I’ve experienced being — I guess being a ‘minority’ would be one way to put it, or just different.”
Meseck said although he is Caucasian, his extended family is very diverse, which has taught him a lot about the concept of diversity. Four of his five siblings are half-Mexican, as well as his stepfather. He also said his aunt is married to an African-American Muslim.
“I have had close relationships across many spectrums as far as family goes, and it helps build understanding,” Meseck said of his family’s cultural makeup.
SA Vice President of Academics Vrinda is helping to expand diversity efforts at PSUC by establishing the South Asian Student Association because there is a large population of international students on campus from South Asian countries.
Vrinda said her purpose in creating the club was to “kill two birds with one stone,” by creating a niche for students from South Asian countries and to expose students here to South Asian culture. She said she also wanted to help future students feel comfortable with transition to studying in the United States.
“A lot of students felt like there should be this club on campus,” Vrinda said.
She said she felt a new club was necessary because there are no other clubs on campus that represent people from countries such as India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka.
“It (PSUC) is very open to new suggestions (in exploring diversity) both faculty and administration. It is very welcoming,” Vrinda said, “And the students are also, but I think students, national and international, both need to step up and get out of their comfort zones.”
To her, diversity means people from various countries coexist and live comfortably together. It is people knowing information about each other’s countries and cultures as well.
Meseck said there is always room for improvement on campus, but PSUC does a “fairly good” job at exploring diversity.
“We have the most international students than any other SUNY school. That’s so remarkable, and I wish we would take advantage of that more,” he said.
Meseck said one way PSUC could take advantage of this achievement is by working to bring the diversity into the rest of the community. He said an effective way to do this is to share our diverse environment with high school students, elderly and families in the community who may have never had the chance to meet people from other countries.
To Meseck, diversity is “accepting the fact that everyone is innately different. And that there are differences in people and that it is acceptable to be different. It’s the unity of differences and the ability to understand each other, although we don’t feel the same things.”
Email Marissa Russo at firstname.lastname@example.org