U kicks off first-ever

by Stacy Jo

Despite decades of civil rights activism and public debate, racism still thrives in the lives of people of all races, including students and staff at the University.
Echoing President Clinton’s efforts to study race relations nationwide, University senior John Richardson organized efforts to spark a discussion about race issues on campus.
Combined efforts between Richardson, a Carlson School of Management senior, and other students and departments resulted in the University’s first-ever Race Dialogue Week, which began this week and will run until Wednesday.
“We live in a climate where we get very uncomfortable when issues of race come up,” said Linda Wolford, acting director for the Diversity Institute.
In developing the event schedule, organizers gathered ideas from students and staff last spring on the racial issues in everyday life, such as legal immigration and language barriers between people of different races.
Wolford praised Richardson and other University student organizers for developing a project of this magnitude — one which organizers hope to make an annual event.
The purpose of the week is simple, Richardson said.
“We want people more comfortable so they don’t need a special day or a special theme to talk about race,” Richardson said.
Planners encouraged University departments to create programs of their own in conjunction with the week. Richardson and Wolford agreed that collaboration between departments and student organizers made the week come together.
The kickoff event Wednesday featured a discussion on campus race issues with keynote speakers Alexs Pate, an English professor, and Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo, associate vice president for multicultural and academic affairs.
Along with videos and discussions with racial themes throughout the week, officials plan to assemble the University’s first ever diversity time capsule.
Organizers invite students, staff and faculty to drop off contributions to the time capsule in the St. Paul Student Center on Friday. Items representing diversity — such as an item from someone’s heritage or something that has become more diverse in society today — are encouraged. Donors will be asked to include a note marking the significance of the item with their contribution.
Neelu Babu, a junior in the College of Liberal Arts, developed the idea for the time capsule. She said because the idea of diversity changes over time, students in the future can capture what diversity meant to students today.
“I’m hoping it will give students a chance to express their ideas of what diversity means,” Babu said.
She said one of her friends proposed the idea of including a golf ball in the time capsule to represent the social progression golf has made from a “white man’s sport” to one which is now led by diverse individuals such as Tiger Woods.
The capsule will reside at the Diversity Institute in Coffman Union until its intended unveiling in the year 2020.
Organizers will round out the week Wednesday with three discussions on race in the workplace, race in campus life and race in the classroom as they pertain to the University community.