Multicultural Leadership Institute begins 5-week seminar on social justice

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Students gather for a leadership seminar Feb. 18 at William C. Powers, Jr. Student Activity Center. Students for Equality and Diversity hosted the event to discuss white supremacy and the prison industrial complex.

Photo Credit: Kara Hawley | Daily Texan Staff

The Multicultural Leadership Institute, a five-week seminar that develops leadership skills through the exploration of various social topics, discussed the issue of racism and its implications on Tuesday.

The seminar is a social justice leadership program held annually by Students for Equity and Diversity, an organization within the Multicultural Engagement Center. About 30 students are participating in the institute this year. 

The goal of the institute is to teach participants about social justice and leadership through peer-led student engagements. The institute aims at covering a more holistic view of identity, allyship and community organization through the discussion of different topics each week. 

The discussion Tuesday focused on racism, white supremacy and its implications on UT’s campus and the greater Austin area. Several students shared their thoughts on viral events in UT’s past, including a controversial bake sale in 2016 that aimed to portray affirmative action in a negative light.

The seminar also talked about Austin’s 1928 Master Plan, which established an intentionally segregated district in what is now Austin’s City Council District 1, according to AustinTexas.gov. Students discussed the ramifications of the Master Plan that still exist today, including a noticeable wealth disparity when crossing Interstate 35 and the ongoing displacement of minorities due to gentrification.

 

“I hear the word gentrification thrown around a lot, and it’s nice to discuss it because it gets confusing,” international relations sophomore Jackson Rowley said. “I definitely have learned a lot so far, and I’d like to learn what I can do to help.”

While the institute has previously put on events for Explore UT, a day-long event to welcome community members to campus, this year they will be hosting a social justice week including events regarding social activism and how to get involved in community organizing throughout Austin. Students in the seminar will also have the opportunity to host their own presentations on a topic of their choice.

Jackson Noland, a participant, is interested in working on a project regarding problems that LGBTQ people face on social media, such as cyberbullying.

“I was recommended to (the institute) by my boyfriend,” Noland, a sociology and government freshman, said. “It’s also a really good way to get to know people from all different majors and schools.”