In a recent meeting of the student senate, Student Association (SA) President Terrell Coakley addressed his plan to host a diversity program for the beginning of the spring 2012 semester.
Coakley’s program would concern students and faculty within the campus community at SUNY New Paltz, and raise awareness to educate students on campus about the difference between “diversity” and “multicultural.”
“When it comes to diversity and multicultural, you can be multicultural by default,” said Coakley. “That doesn’t mean you’re definitely diverse or vice versa. Just because you assume that you’re diverse doesn’t mean that you’re multicultural, and I don’t believe there is enough awareness on those issues.”
The inspiration for the program came from Coakley’s participation in a similar event a year ago with other members of SA. While Coakley has been unable to contact the person who hosted the event, he credited him for changing his outlook on diversity.
Coakley said the instructor running the program used five hours to hold the workshop. The instructor would break students up into groups and give each group a few tasks to carry out.
“It was something that was pretty minute, but it changed my look on a lot of things,” said Coakley. “He teaches a lot of inner city youth kids and I want to bring him here to teach us.”
The program at New Paltz would be run similarly, and would address issues such as biases and denial of said biases, according to Coakley.
He said hiding your own personal bias is dangerous and should be addressed. Coakley said if such issues are not addressed, than people create more problems for themselves and then more room for controversy are aroused.
“When you try to hide your bias, you tend to deny it,” Coakley said. “And then when you deny, it you subversively act on it. When you talk about it and admit that you have one, you can bring it to light for yourself and for your others.”
Something Coakley said he wants is for some departments to mandate the program for their classes. Ideal groups that Coakley said he wanted to involve are first-year students and people involved in departments such as Black Studies and Women Studies.
Second-year elementary education and Black Studies major Stephanie Cabrera said she liked the idea of the program and believes it would be beneficial for the student body.
“I think it will bring together the community of students in New Paltz that feel that they are targeted,” Cabrera said. “I think it’s a good opportunity for people to share their experiences.”
In the end, Coakley said what’s most important is for people to come out and feel that diversity and bias have a significant impact on our culture.
“Diversity and bias affects everyone,” said Coakley. “When I was able to talk about it and come to terms with it, I was able to progress onwards and I hope other people will feel that way.”