The University has engaged teams of resident advisors, minority peer advisors, multicultural initiatives and students to promote interaction among races. But in most campus residence hall cafeterias, Asian Americans, African Americans, Arab Americans and caucasian Americans often sit separately, but there’s no all-Americans table.
Derek Liu, who was involved in campus integration efforts for three years before graduating in December, said he feels that more students need to take the initiative and meet all kinds of people – not just those of their own race.
“I don’t feel this campus is integrated at all. On one side there’s white students, on the other there’s minorities,” he said. He said it is very hard to get people to step outside what he calls “their comfort zone.” But students must still learn to empathize with people of other races, he added.
Liu said he planned parties with live bands and tried to promote discussions about pertinent issues, in addition to being a member of Ambatana, a South Quad Residence Hall group that focuses on multicultural issues. He recalled one discussion among whites and blacks about affirmative action that turned into a heated argument.
“Race is salient,” he said. Liu recalled another situation in which a white student who had previously assumed all minority students are under-qualified, lost that preconceived notion when a black peer articulated an intelligent response in class.
LSA senior Jonathan Jones, an R.A. at South Quad, said his job is geared toward student interests, rather than minority interests.
“In general the idea is integration,” he said. Jones mentioned some specific activities that were held in his hallway, such as a “squarnival,” or a carnival with raffles, and karaoke, as well as academic activities, such as helping students find the right major.
When asked about integration on campus, most students began by explaining where they are from. Business School senior Krupesh Mehta, said he is from a diverse neighborhood in New York.
LSA senior Ryan Hudson said he grew up in a small, all-white community.
Mehta said interaction with other races is not difficult for him and University residence halls were not that big of a change.
“It depends on the person. Most college students are open-minded,” he added.
But Hudson said the residence hall he lived in was one drastic change among many others for him. “For people coming from a racially homogenous community, the University is the first exposure to integrated living,” he said.
He added, however, that most of the real interaction he had with other races was a result of his own initiative, because he came from a community in which people make an effort to get to know their neighbors.