Groups call for cultural exchange

Student leaders seek to establish a multicultural- group coalition.

by mackenzie collins

Many multicultural groups strive to share and educate the University of Minnesota community about their culture, but some student group leaders say there isnâÄôt enough interaction between multicultural groups themselves. Because of this, some multicultural student leaders wish to establish a coalition of groups that meets regularly. Leaders from the UniversityâÄôs Hindu Student Society, African Student Association, Black Student Union and Chinese American Student Association all said they agreed that more cultural exchanges between the UniversityâÄôs groups are needed. While many of the leaders said theyâÄôve hosted individual events with other groups, a habitual forum of cultural exchange doesnâÄôt exist. BSU President Cortez Riley said he thinks the University should help the groups work on ways to form cross-cultural relationships, whether through the Office of Equity and Diversity, the Martin Luther King Jr. Program or the Office for Student Affairs. âÄúWe all stay within our own groups. I mean, every once in a while weâÄôll go to attend each otherâÄôs events, but there is no collaboration going on,âÄù Riley said. Office of Equity and Diversity Assistant Vice President Rickey Hall said there are some initial group gatherings through the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence in the fall, but there arenâÄôt any organized University coalitions that would facilitate continuous cultural interaction between the groups. Hall said the previously named offices would be supportive if a coalition was formed, but it would need to be student-fueled to be successful. Hall also said this interchange between cultures is important for all University studentsâÄô futures. âÄúBecause the world and nation is becoming more diverse, one of the things that employers want is for employees to work effectively across different [cultures],âÄù Hall said. However, some multicultural students said this cultural exchange is easier said than done. Riley said he has realized the disparity between the groups through his experiences on the second floor of Coffman Union, the location of some of the larger multicultural student group offices. Chinese American Student Association President Frank Li said he has noticed the same problems and said the idea of a group that shares its own morals and values with one another could be positive but could also pose cultural problems. Li said that if Asian students spend too much time with white students, then other Asian students can perceive them as an outcast because they may feel like they have forgotten their culture. âÄúYou feel so comfortable with the group of your ethnicity,âÄù Li said. âÄúDefinitely, there are certain boundaries or walls that keep one from going to, for example, the Black Student Union. Everyone is friendly, but at the same time, weâÄôre not that open yet in terms of a student community.âÄù Korean Student Association President Eric Lee said his group collaborates with many of the other Asian groups on campus, but time and comfort levels can play a role in the disparity. âÄúThis is a student group, and we have a limited amount of time, and it is easier to work with other Asian students groups because we are already pretty familiar with each other,âÄù Lee said. âÄúBeing comfortable, thatâÄôs not something that we should overlook, thatâÄôs something very important.âÄù