Self-segregation at Coffman Union

Student organizations aren't taking advantage of the opportunity to work together.

Maggie Habashy

Coffman Union is a centralized place on campus where students go to meet with their friends and study groups, get some coffee, sleep, finish their papers, etc. In theory, Coffman is unifying. I know I consider it to be my second home. Who is it unifying, though?

The concept is great. It is the one place for students to come together in between classes. It is the meeting place for everyone from all over campus.

Most people don’t realize Coffman is home to hundreds of students groups, some of which have permanent homes there. Minnesota International Student Association, Minnesota Student Association and La Raza Student Cultural Center are just a few examples.

Does anyone really know these groups exist or what they are about?

The groups have obtainable goals and serious issues in mind when they are created. Most importantly, they want to bring together those with specific commonalities.

You might learn about these groups being mentioned by word of mouth or those random fliers seen while crossing the bridge, but there is a feeling of segregation when it comes to Coffman’s second floor. It would be intimidating for an unfamiliar student to go into one of these rooms and hang out.

You can meet people from all over the world with different backgrounds, views and lives at the University. Yet, when you go to the second floor of Coffman, which most students think is filled with offices, there are more cliques than in high school. You’ll find that each student group has built its own community.

The problem isn’t that the groups keep people out; it’s that they assume students know who they are or what they are about.

They need to realize that when attempting to raise awareness, they are only creating it within their enclosed community.

They have events all through the semester and do excessive advertising, and yet most outsiders show up for the free food, not for the event or for the organization.

I’ll admit some of my closest friends will call me to tell me to meet them somewhere for free food. When I ask them what the free food is for, they say, it doesn’t matter, we can go, get some and leave.

Yes, free food is a great way to attract people to an event, but it’s really important to spread word of an organization’s cause with more than just food. Students should remember more than just the satisfying feeling in their stomachs or the money they saved.

Even at the beginning of the year, the student organizations have an open house day. This is a great opportunity for the groups to introduce people to their organization and its members, and it’s their chance to make a lasting impression on future members or curious students.

Once again, great idea, but most people who actually show up are usually existing members from other groups. And most of the time they already know each other, so the first impression is nonexistent.

The organizations have created more social division instead of bringing students together.

They do a fine job of making some feel like they belong, but in the end, they are separating themselves from the rest of campus.

There may not be a realistic way of fixing this issue. Even if all of the organizations on campus were eliminated and replaced with one big super group, human nature would come into play and separation would still exist. No matter how hard people try to get rid of this segregation, it is difficult to follow through. This problem existed on the playground, in high school, now in Coffman and eventually wherever we end up.

Separation and segregation in the social structure always will be present regardless of how hard everyone tries.

One thing that may help the situation is recognizing that there is a problem. It might seem a little cliché, but denial is only going to make it worse.

Here’s a thought though, even if you don’t belong to one of the organizations on the second floor of Coffman, remember there are some of the most comfortable couches up there. It is such a great area to catch up on some Z’s.

Maggie Habashy welcomes comments at [email protected]