Maya Angelou once said, “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”
By Arianna Zomparelli / Staff Writer
Diversity is a paramount concept in our everyday lives. Although some might say that we already live in a diverse society and attend diverse universities, we must do what we can to create a more inclusive, more supportive, and safer environment for everyone.
Last November a few JCU students came together to concretize what is now the first student-run Diversity Committee at JCU, recognized by the university as a subcommittee of the Student Government. The Diversity Committee plans to create initiatives that promote diversity and a more all-encompassing environment in the university. It has already approached the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce and the administration to explain their concerns and issues, addressing, for example, the topic of accessibility for disabled students around the campus.
The committee’s chair, Kennedy Lightbourne, says she has always been interested in promoting equality, and one of her goals for the committee is to make the university a more inclusive place in order to unite people and make everyone feel at home and act like their true selves. Kennedy is a senior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Legal Studies from The Bahamas. She explains that the common interest of an effective change in our university has encouraged the building of the committee and, since then, many people have expressed the need to create a more embracing and welcoming space within the JCU community. Feeling out of place and different has motivated them to express their need for a more inclusive setting. According to the team leader of the Diversity Committee, Kehisha Johnson, diversity equals to progressiveness; therefore, she highlights that a community that appreciates and values its diversity is more prone to new ideas and is willing to accept and welcome changes. Kehisha is a junior and Marketing major from Atlanta, Georgia (USA). During her high school years, she was a member of the Black Lives Matter club, and she comments that this experience made her realize that many students share the same wishes to amplify students’ voices regarding important matters.
The Diversity Committee thus aims to create a more suitable and welcoming atmosphere for all, and everyone’s help is needed to achieve this. With a community of students from over 70 different countries, we must strive to form a welcoming and diverse community, where, despite the differences, we can all feel integrated and supported. Any university should benefit from diversity and integration as diversity creates and broadens new perspectives and it is enriching for everyone in our community. By building a more diverse student body, we will reach new levels of productivity and acceptance and an overall feeling of satisfaction towards our university. A more diverse community will benefit all of us, as it is known that people build a stronger sense of uniqueness and personal identity when their diverse perspectives and interests are understood and challenged.
With Kennedy and Kehisa, two other members currently make up the committee’s board: Camila Mosier, a junior student majoring in International Affairs from Texas, USA, and Luca Azzariti Crousillat, senior student majoring in International Affairs and Economic and Finance, from Peru and Italy. Luca is the current President of the Student Government and President of the Diversity Committee, acting as direct liaison to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce. Luca takes ideas, concerns and suggestions to the taskforce as they work together.
The Diversity Committee has many objectives and believes there is need for some changes and improvements in order to build a more inclusive environment for all students. As mentioned, there is the need for better infrastructures for people with disabilities, who might often find themselves excluded from certain activities. There is also the request for more non-Western-focused courses and more diversity in lectures. By including more non-Western cultures and courses, students have the possibility to learn so much more and feel included in the subject. Despite JCU marketing itself as a diverse and multicultural university, the resources to support a diverse student body are not always provided. An example would be students of color not having access to counsellors of color, who they might find easier to talk to. Many students have also expressed their wish to be surrounded by more professors, faculty and administration of color. The mission of the committee is therefore to communicate these needs and to promote the need of those resources in the name of the students who can relate to these issues.
Diversity is a topic of crucial importance and should be addressed as such. There are many steps we can take to advocate for diversity and become better allies. One step is to educate ourselves regarding issues that PoC (people of color) and other minorities face every day. Listening to what minorities have to say about their problems and reading the news is a good start. Moreover, we can attend meetings, peaceful protests and events, and show interest and willingness to help those who need it. Another way to be a better ally would be to acknowledge any kind of privilege we have and use it to raise awareness. Lastly, a way to advocate for diversity is to be present and speak up for those who may not have the means to do so. Holding others accountable and educating them is a step forward towards a more inclusive and diverse university.
Supporting and promoting inclusivity and diversity can be done in countless ways and anyone can be part of this new committee. Students of the Diversity Committee say they are often asked if those who are not considered minorities can still advocate and promote a more inclusive vision of the world, and the answer is, of course, yes. The objective of a more diverse community must be shared by as many people as possible. It is essential to always remember that we must speak up against injustices even if they do not directly affect us, because the power of our voices united will make a difference.
Watch Luca’s talk on “The role of students and their initiatives” at TEDxJCU COUNTDOWN event last semester.
The committee’s forum takes place twice a month. Board members meet once or twice a week. Contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related stories: Meet Kehisha in the Road to Rome series