Students take on diversity

Whose Diversity? wants an inclusive campus, without help from administrators.

Vanessa Nyarko

Members of a growing student movement at the University of Minnesota are raising issues with a lack of diversity on campus and how the institution’s leaders are dealing with it.

Whose Diversity? — an independent student collective — wants to challenge the University’s core values of diversity to promote greater social justice and equity on campus.

The group started gaining its footing on campus at the end of last semester. It has since distributed newsletters to groups on Coffman Union’s second floor and held panels and meetings to discuss diversity issues that members say are rarely brought up.

“This University is really run with the idea of being a top research institution, which leaves out a lot of voices,” said individualized studies senior Tori Hong.

About one in six University students is a student of color, and only about one in every 27 students is black.

University administrators have acknowledged the institution’s lack of diversity. At a Board of Regents meeting earlier this semester, Vice Provost for Equity and Diversity Katrice Albert outlined plans to increase the number of students of color on campus, starting with a focus on growing the black student population.

Still, Whose Diversity? wants to emphasize action in addressing diversity issues at the University instead of just education, said global studies senior Leah Prudent.

Whose Diversity? doesn’t plan to become an official University student group, as Prudent said its members don’t want to be subjected to the University’s rules and code of conduct or held accountable by the institution.

The collective’s efforts are inspired by past activist displays from multicultural groups, Hong said, including the Afro-American Action Committee’s takeover of Morrill Hall, the University’s main administrative building, in 1969.

Hong said she feels there isn’t a safe space for her and other students of color on campus.

“I don’t think as a student of color, as a woman of color at the U, [my voice] is really privileged here,” she said. “My voice is often silenced and marginalized.”

Danita Brown Young, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students, said she’s concerned with the “overall student experience” of students who have traditionally been marginalized on campus.

The current University administration aims to ally with all students, she said.

“I can’t speak to what has happened in the past, but I can speak for what is going on currently and in the future while I am here,” she said.

Brown Young said she has reached out to Whose Diversity? organizers and asked to meet with them to discuss issues, but a meeting has yet to happen.

Hong said the group has debated whether to meet with University administrators like Brown Young but opted to not speak with anyone as a group at this time so the collective can remain autonomous. Individual group members may meet with administrators if they choose to, she said.