‘Whose U’ film questions higher ed diversity policy

The film addresses who the University’s administration and funding ultimately serve.

Seniors Hana Worku, far, and Sofi Shank, front, work on their film on Monday on East Bank.

Jules Ameel

Seniors Hana Worku, far, and Sofi Shank, front, work on their film on Monday on East Bank.

Ashley Aram

About 40 students from the University of Minnesota and public institutions across the state have come together to film a documentary questioning just how diverse Minnesota higher education really is.
The film âÄî âÄúWhose University? Whose education?âÄù âÄî addresses who the UniversityâÄôs administration and funding ultimately serve, and was spurred by recent events at the University and ongoing debate.
âÄúIn the past year or so the University has gone through a lot of cuts and particular attacks on organizations and institutions promoting diversity,âÄù senior Brian Apland, a participant in the film, said.
According to Apland, this consisted of the denying funding to the Black Student Union, the fight over space allocation on the second floor of Coffman Union for cultural groups and potential cuts to ethnic studies departments.
Seniors Sofia Shank and Hana Worku said the University represents itself as diverse and cultured but has disenfranchised cultural groups on campus.
âÄúThere is a contradiction between the UâÄôs expressed commitment to these sites and its simultaneous disinvestments of these sites,âÄù Shank said.
Debate over school policies is encouraged, Assistant Vice President of the Office for Equity and Diversity Rickey Hall said.
âÄúWhether or not the U agrees with the philosophical underpinning of the documentary, itâÄôs always good when students are taking a critical examination of policies and procedures of the U.âÄù
ItâÄôs important to question their impact on certain communities, Hall said.
âÄúIf nothing else, it might spark a rich discussion.âÄù
Shank and Worku were among the students who are making the documentary and holding an event with music, teach-ins, workshops and theater performances.
On April 20, about 300 high school students will attend the event at Coffman Union, which will include the trailer of âÄúWhose University?,âÄù Shank said. It will be open to students, faculty and community members.
âÄúThe question of âÄòWhose University?âÄô is important because if you ask who, you have to name who,âÄù she said. âÄúThereâÄôs very specific populations and communities being affected âĦ so itâÄôs trying to name who is being served.âÄù
Many student groups on campus are participating in putting together the film and event, including In The Mix, the Black Student Union, the Black Graduate and Professional Students Association and La Raza.
âÄúI received an email last October from Hana [Worku] about a meeting to organize around key issues affecting underrepresented students in public education,âÄù Illenin Kondo, president of BGAPSA, said. âÄúWe are all really passionate about this campaign because it is bringing together voices that have been muted by our complacent acceptance of the institutional discourse on diversity.âÄù
The group hopes a large turnout at its April 20 event will kick-start debate and publicize the documentary.
âÄúIdeally, the event will be a very, very large event and the reaction will be that people are excited and are already thinking about the next steps,âÄù Worku said. If the event is a success, Worku said she believes it will require a response from school administration.