The University at Albany has done very well in admitting a diverse population of students. I have had classes, and many other experiences with students from various backgrounds. The problem, however is that on campus we all separate into our respective social groups. Since I was a freshman here, student organizations have been advertised as a way to help students become involved on campus, a space that everyone can find a place to enjoy using their talents and gifts.
Students organizations have been very successful for that purpose but they have also caused a problem of separation among peers. Recently I have seen that groups are starting to collaborate. In my experience, however the collaborations are set up through the friends of different members, which means students still remain in their comfort zone. If there is some sort of encouragement to help student organizations collaborate with those from various social groups, UAlbany can create much more of a diverse experience for us students.
I remember in the beginning of the year, the Executive Board of Student Organizations would arrive early for an orientation. After going over the basic procedures for registration, all the student organizations would mingle and get to know each group's focus and purpose on campus. At this event we, a performing arts group, would plan collaborations with the sketching club for flyers, or the Indian Dance Team to possibly open a show. Unfortunately, since these groups were outside of our social circle, we did not see them again and changed our plans to include those we saw more often and could plan ideas with on a regular basis.
I propose that the school should bring back the orientations to keep at least the introduction to this diversity. In addition, there should be more events to bring together student organizations with the same cause so they can help raise the bar for each other's events and purpose on campus. This could also become a more consistent and diverse social experience. For example, the Performing Arts Center had an event on "hate speech" that combined all the performing arts groups on campus.
My student organization, Phenomenal Voices, who usually stays comfortable among an urban population was introduced to students studying theater, dance and found that despite the differences, everyone was expressing the same emotion on the stage. In putting on this program, the Performing Arts Center and faculty definitely created a space where our differences were the least important because of how much more we found in common. Imagine all departments would share retreats or conferences that bring together all the different organizations under their area of expertise.
This would help different organizations find a common ground that they are passionate about, overpowering the differences in race, religion, economic background, and overall experience. The school can also provide incentives through SA funding. They can award more funds to student organizations and continue with the bonus as the group continues with the school's focus of diversity. This will definitely be a learning experience and increase the success and importance of student groups and faculty on this campus. If we only experience diversity in the classroom and not in social experiences, it will help us deal with differences professionally but not help to make a definite change in our personal lives and perspectives. For this reason I believe pushing diversity into the social aspect of campus life is the next step to giving us UAlbany students a real experience of diversity.
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