Liberal Arts Council holds first equity and inclusion focus group

Sana Hameed

The Liberal Arts Council’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee held its first focus group Monday to collect feedback from students on how to make the College of Liberal Arts a more inclusive space. 

The council’s diversity director Frida Silva said the committee chose to do focus groups first to encourage student interaction and allow for follow-up questions.  

“With a form, it’s really easy to just type up whatever and send it,” said Silva, an English and health and society junior. “(There’s) something about doing it face to face — you can prod a little bit more, you can ask more questions and get more out of people than a survey where they just send it, and then you can never really get more information afterwards.”  

The focus groups discussed inclusiveness on campus, resources available in COLA and minority representation among advisers and faculty.   

Participants also split into two groups to come up with a program they would want to see implemented in COLA. Echo Nattinger’s group focused on income inequality and career security.  

 



“There’s this idea that … if you see faces that have different skin colors, you’re in a diverse environment,” said Nattinger, a Plan II and government freshman. “That’s not necessarily true. You have to think about diversity of background, diversity of majors, diversity of income.”  

Silva said the committee intends to do at least eight focus groups. Harley Gutierrez, the council’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee co-chair, said while this was a general focus group open to anyone, it is important to have additional focus groups geared toward specific segments of the student population.  

“My experience as a Latina is going to be very different from someone else who is marginalized in a different way in a different major but still within COLA,” said Gutierrez, a Plan II and psychology freshman.  

Silva said this way, participants can choose which sessions they will attend based on their comfort level, and the council can get perspectives people might not be comfortable sharing in other spaces. The next focus group is Wednesday from 4 p.m.-5 p.m. at Patton Hall. 

The committee’s objective is to use focus group feedback and a collegewide survey to create a diversity action plan, which they will assign to a designated task force. 

“We can’t reduce diversity to ‘OK great, we have a Black Students Association,’” Nattinger said. “There has to be a really dedicated and deliberate and palpable and ongoing effort to push that needle.”