Do you fit in? This past Wednesday, the United Minorities Council, the University Assembly, VPUL and the Greenfield Intercultural Center sponsored the first Town Hall Meeting on Underrepresented Issues on Penn's Campus. The meeting was extraordinarily insightful, but a few people may have missed the bottom line that the meeting was intended to highlight. For those of you who may have missed the point -- or missed the entire meeting, for that matter -- I'll try to reiterate the main themes without too much painstaking detail. The first question: Do you fit into Penn's status quo? And the second question: How can you participate in improving matters on Penn's campus? Needless to say, not many people feel they fit into Penn's status quo, nor were many satisfied with said "status quo." To be frank, I don't know if we can really pin down what Penn's status quo is -- the term is completely relative to the observer. But where there is reasonable dissatisfaction around the table with that status quo, there is room for change. At the meeting, Wharton junior Brian Kelly got straight to the point as to how to promote change on campus. He said students do not operate solely as individuals but as a community, and we need to work together to eliminate and prevent injustice. He feels students should not be apathetic, but active, in order to effectively stimulate change. Another conversation that emerged in the meeting concerned minority recruitment and retention at the University. Many students have left Penn for various reasons. For some, reasons for leaving include lack of interest on behalf of the faculty, student alienation or financial difficulties. Many students felt that Penn doesn't make a just effort to recruit minority students and ensure that those students finish school here. Although this statement may hold some truth, there are things that we, as students, can do while we are demanding more of Penn's faculty and administration. One young lady remarked that she was the first student from her high school to attend an Ivy League school in 10 years. And now that she's here, she reaches back to her high school and recruits students herself -- she doesn't wait on Penn's administration to do it. This year, her school had eight applicants to Penn. Hopefully, all of those students will make it here. But once they are here, they will face an
entirely new environment that may be plagued with negativity. In new situations, one student reaching back may not be enough. That student will need the support of other students as well as administration to continue to help others. Other relevant issues that plague Penn's campus -- but remain underrepresented -- include such issues as racial profiling, increased minority faculty and the interest on behalf of white students who want to help facilitate change on minority issues. All of these conversations are very important but couldn't be discussed due to the meeting's time constraints. There is so much that can be done, and by the end of the meeting many students were extremely passionate and a little confused as to how they can effectively perpetuate change. These students just don't know exactly what to do. Since the meeting, many people have asked, "Where do we go from here? We've had this meeting, everyone knows what we think -- now what?" Well, I ask a similar question. Are you going to take ownership of your participation -- or lack of participation -- in Penn's community? There are some things we, as individuals, can do to help underrepresented issues we see on campus. Remember, if you attended the meeting, you took a big step in realizing the importance of underrepresented issues on campus and you have a genuine interest in facilitating change. Don't get discouraged. Remain optimistic and open to suggestions and methods of change, especially concerning change in yourself. Always, always, take ownership for your actions -- or lack thereof -- because if they are your actions, you have empowered yourself to change them. I commend the organizations that saw a need for this type of forum on campus. My hope is that meetings like this will continue to open dialogue between groups and break down barriers of apathy and inactivity and lead to positive change for everyone in our community.Comments powered by Disqus
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