CSE students hopeful for more diversity

College of Science and Engineering students partnered with faculty for an event exploring diversity and privilege.

Director of Education at the Office of Equity and Diversity, Step Jarvi, talks about how to be more inclusive to marginalized groups in CSE at the Iclusivity in CSE event in Bruininks Hall on Saturday, April 7.

Max Ostenso

Director of Education at the Office of Equity and Diversity, Step Jarvi, talks about how to be more inclusive to marginalized groups in CSE at the Iclusivity in CSE event in Bruininks Hall on Saturday, April 7.

by Lew Blank

The College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota held a workshop Saturday morning to explore diversity and better integrate underrepresented students into the college.

The event — called Inclusivity in CSE — was attended by about 30 students and several faculty members. During the two and a half hour event organized by CSE students, attendees engaged in activities to discuss privilege and a poetry writing session.

According to 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 19 percent of Minnesotans are people of color, and according to the Office of Institutional Research, 19 percent of the University’s student population are people of color. However, the percentage of CSE students of color is lower, at just 15 percent.

Furthermore, while the University as a whole is split almost evenly between males and females, enrollment in CSE is skewed heavily towards men, with just 27.5 percent of its students identifying as female.

“I want people to become more aware of exactly how inclusive is CSE at this moment because right now … it’s predominantly white males,” said Abigail Valero, a Mexican-American junior studying aerospace engineering and mechanics.

After a short presentation on the demographic makeup of CSE, students took part in a privilege circle, where about 40 questions were asked pertaining to housing, food security, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and other issues. If the question asked pertained to them, the students would step forward.

After the privilege circle, students were invited to write “Where I’m From” poems exploring their identities and backgrounds.

One of the purposes of these activities was to delve into the human, emotional side of diversity in CSE, said Jennifer Arsjad, an Indonesian senior who helped organize the event.

“When we’re talking about diversity and inclusivity, it is definitely more than just facts, more than numbers, more than data,” she said.

Toward the end of the event, students brainstormed ways to make the CSE environment more open for diverse students. Some students suggested adjusting the CSE curriculum to emphasize diversity, instructing faculty to use the correct pronouns and analyzing CSE’s programming through a lens of equity.

According to Sasanehsaeh Pyawasay, Diversity Program Coordinator for CSE, the event demonstrated the importance of students working with administration.

“I think it’s a collaborative effort,” she said. “We have to do our best as administrators to create an environment where our students feel [included].”

Stef Jarvi, the Director of Education at the Office for Equity and Diversity who facilitated the event, agreed that everyone’s voice is needed to make changes.

“[It is] important to have all of us … working on inclusivity — not just administration, not just students, not just faculty,” they said.