The University Residence Hall Association’s continued commitment to diversity was affirmed when it was recently bestowed the Community to Diversity 2012 campus award.
The Great Lakes Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls, the organization that granted the honor on Nov. 3, accepted bids from their 55 member universities throughout Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Ontario with student-run residence hall associations. The University challenged Michigan State University and Ferris State University for the award with a 27-page document titled “Who Are You?”
The document included details on the University’s efforts to promote diversity through ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, national and international relations, and language education.
Lance Sharp, the hall director for South Quad Residence Hall, said the RHA executive board wanted to show how well the University is promoting and improving student diversity by making a bid for the diversity honor.
“We’re doing some great, amazing things,” Sharp said. “We thought, ‘what can we do to show this?’ One of the reasons commitment to diversity stood out to us is we have so much focus on the commitment to being a diverse student body and being on top of our game with diversity.”
Sharp said the University wanted to showcase its level of commitment to diversity, especially compared to that of other universities in the region.
“We were just brainstorming and within five seconds we had a ton of different ideas of what this University does as a whole that works to being diverse,” Sharp said. “From the Spectrum Center, the multicultural lounges in the residence halls, those are things that most campuses don’t have. They don’t have a good understanding of what diversity is.”
According to Sharp, the multicultural centers located in each residence hall serve as an environment for students to meet peers of diverse backgrounds and learn more about different cultures.
“They’re kind of a way to be a little reminder to our buildings that there are other cultures out there and it’s a way for us to educate other people on those cultures,” he said. “It’s also just a fun way to remind people that hanging out can educate you as well.”
University Housing spokesman Peter Logan said the RHA plays an important role in providing structure to residential communities.
“Their work to promote open and inclusive, welcoming communities throughout our residence halls and our undergraduate departments is very important,” Logan said. “Their connections with multicultural councils and hall councils really promote the principals of appreciating, welcoming and advocating diversity.”
The sexual identity section of the report featured LSA freshman Nick Rinehart, who was the first recipient of the Chris Armstrong scholarship, which rewards LGBT student advocates and activists in honor of the University’s first openly gay student body president.
Rinehart said the University is more welcoming to diversity compared to his high school in Rochester, Mich.
“I think it’s a very big change for me, coming from a conservative area, where the administration was more fighting against you and trying to stop what you wanted to do rather than encouraging diversity and anti-discrimination policies,” Rinehart said.
He added that he has not faced discrimination while attending the University.
“I think the University has been doing a very good job with promoting diversity and having as many programs as possible to help it,” he said. “I have never come across issues with discrimination or anything.”
Sharp said students should feel proud to be a part of such a uniquely diverse campus.
“The Michigan community should actually be proud,” Sharp said. “Out of all those schools, Michigan has been able to show how they have a stronger commitment to diversity than those other schools do right now.”