September 28, 2005

Students Walk Down Diversity Boulevard

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Almost 70 student groups and campus organizations packed Ho Plaza with booths for the University’s diversity fair yesterday. The event was part of Diversity Week, a celebration of five years of the “Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds” campaign.

Administrative branches aimed at helping students set up shop, hoping to raise awareness of their existence. Clubs were there to attract students that missed the activities fair earlier this year.

Besides appealing to the tolerant mindset of most Cornell students, booths attracted students with an impressive array of free giveaways. Cornell Bias Response handed out Nalgene bottles, the Cornell Union of Disability Awareness had home-made cupcakes; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center booth had bouncy balls; and Cornell Dairy was there with free “diversity” ice cream, complete with rainbow sprinkles.

Tristen Cramer ’09 staffed the Cornell Republicans booth. “I think it, [the diversity fair] is an interesting idea. It’s good for people to see everything. Any group, both racial and intellectual diversity,” she said.

There was an incredible amount of diversity even within the groups, such as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. It is not necessary to be either Hispanic or an engineer to join. “Our name deters people,” lamented Kathya Chiluiza ’05, a member of this networking group.

According to Lynn Delles, program assistant for student support, the fair was designed to bring students one step closer to the ultimate goal where they can “have a respectful conversation with anybody about anything.”

However, the controversial issue of the red arches now dotting the Cornell Campus was never far from anyone’s mind. Provost Biddy Martin and President Hunter R. Rawlings III both mentioned it in their speeches before the crowd. “They look terrific,” said Rawlings. Martin called them “a wonderful way to celebrate our commitment to promoting diversity.”

Connie Park, the program manager of diversity programs, agreed with them, but she acknowledged that there was opposition. “Cornell is not going to run away from criticism. We want people to engage us about this.”

There will be discussion groups held later in the week to talk about different diversity related issues at Cornell, including the red arches. “A lot of people do have something to say. It’s not always nice, but we want to hear it,” said Park.

Archived article by Laura Rice
Sun Contributor