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A lot of you don’t know who we are or what we do. Many of you probably doubt the necessity of our existence. In an effort to promote the urgency and import of our mission, we’ve decided to introduce ourselves. Hello, Penn. We’re the United Minorities Council of 2011.

First, a bit of history. The UMC was formed on March 4, 1978 toward the end of a sit-in of the Franklin Building led by the Black Students League. In reaction to numerous budget cuts, BSL joined forces with MEChA (which represents Chicano students at Penn), the Chinese Students Association, the Korean Cultural Society, the Japanese American Student League and the Caribbean American Intercultural Organization to submit demands to the administration regarding financial aid and hiring of minority faculty. These demands were largely met and put into effect by the administration as a result of the solidarity of the minority community.

Since then, the United Minorities Council has grown to 25 constituent groups, running the gamut from Penn Hype (Penn’s first intercultural dance troupe) to Six Directions (Penn’s American-Indian student group). We continue to act as a voice of advocacy for the unified minority population on Penn’s campus. In recent years, we have played a key role in the renovation of DuBois College House, the Undergradate Assembly’s report on the status of minorities at Penn and numerous innovations within Penn’s Multicultural Scholars Weekend.

On a day-to-day basis, we act as one of the most important go-to organizations for the administration when questions that could affect Penn’s minority population arise — everything from admissions to financial aid. We are one of two student-run groups that maintain a permanent seat on University Council (the other is the UA).

But enough about us. We want to hear from you. One of the United Minorities Council’s initiatives this year is to bring the UMC to you. We hope to expand general body membership, constituent membership and attendance of non-UMC affiliated students at our events.

First, we want to dispel the assumption that you have to identify as a “minority” to join the United Minorities Council. What ultimately matters for interested students is a vision for an environment that is more amenable to true interculturalism. As much as you don’t need to be a woman to be involved at the Penn Women’s Center or identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to engage with the Lambda Alliance’s programming, you do not need to be a minority to be a part of the UMC.

Second, we want to know what you think we could do to serve you. What bothers you about minority affairs on Penn’s campus? Where is there room for improvement? What do we do now that you disagree with? How can we, as a community, live up to the reputation that we have as being one of the most diverse and LGBT-friendly schools?

Third, we want to know what you think of when you think of interculturalism. It is our mission this year to bring this question to campus and to have our student body give it some genuine thought. Too often, it is thrown around as a generic buzzword, but we hope to come to some kind of a consensus as to what it really means for us as a community.

E-mail us your thoughts. We would be happy to hear from you as we take a step forward into a new year of intercultural dialogue at Penn.

The United Minorities Council can be reached via e-mail at

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