Students discuss importance of identity and breaking stereotypes

Autumn Sanders

Students for Equity and Diversity hosted their first meeting Thursday with an event focused on identity and breaking stereotypes, aiming to facilitate a dialogue about diversity and giving students the knowledge to make campus more inclusive. 

The event opened by asking questions about identity and calling upon participants to identify themselves, whether it be by race, gender or affiliation to a group or activities. 

“I am Creole, so I put black on scantrons, but I’m not really black or at least not completely,” public health sophomore Kelsea Auguillard said.

From there, students were educated on stereotypes.

“It’s important to realize that stereotypes come from a system of power, and some have more affects than others,” said chemistry sophomore Mehdia Mrabet, co-chair of the Multicultural Leadership Institute.

They were then able to tell personal stories on how stereotypes affected their lives. 

“I identify as black, but I am also a giant nerd. I remember in middle school being called an oreo,” accounting sophomore Alton Braxton said. “I’m afraid to reach out to some black organizations, because I feel I don’t reach their standard of blackness.” 

One activity included students using paper boxes to metaphorically create a box for themselves by writing physical traits on the outside of the box and internal traits, such as favorite hobbies, on the outside. 

“The SED [meeting] hoped to show people how intersectional identities are and to show that diversity does exist,” said Jasmine Barnes, director of operations for SED. “[It’s also] to make students feel like they have friends and a space where they are represented.”

SED is a part of the Center for Multicultural Engagement. The center seeks to give students of all backgrounds a place where they can feel safe and included. It is broken up into six sectors, including Queer People of Color Allies and Latino Community Affairs.

Following the event, most students felt the SED was a place where they could come and talk about their experiences.

“I appreciate diversity anywhere, and sometimes it is hard to find in RTF,” said Richa Iyer, a radio-television-film and advertising sophomore. “I underestimated how much diversity there was, and it made me realize how unique our experiences all are.”