CommUNITY week embraces diversity

A coalition of Yale student groups hopes to celebrate cultural and religious differences on campus with a series of discussions, performances and social events this week.

Funded by the Yale College Dean’s Office and co-sponsored by 48 undergraduate organizations, the first annual CommUNITY Week aims to bring students from different backgrounds and interests together with activities to be held in a “friendly and relaxed setting,” organizers said. Students involved in the week said they hope to combat racism by rubbing out the ignorance generated when students are not encouraged to explore each other’s cultures.

Organizers said the event is partly a response to several racist and intolerant incidents that have occurred over the past year, including the posting of anti-Muslim flyers in November, an anti-gay e-mail and flyers circulated in October and material published by the Yale Herald, Record and Rumpus in the past year.

Event coordinator Funmi Showole ’08, a member of the recently formed Coalition for Campus Unity, said she and her peers felt that the Yale community needed an event focused on fun and lighthearted aspects of learning about different cultures after the past year’s series of more serious discussions characterized by “high tensions.”

“This week has a different goal,” she said. “It’s not about heart-wrenching dialogue, accusations or blame but about getting past all of that to build relationships and a community.”

Showole said the concept of CommUNITY Week was initiated by the Coalition for Campus Unity in the fall as a potential candidate for the Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee’s $5,000 funding contest. Showole said although their project lost to the Middle Eastern-themed “A Night at the Kasbah” event, the group was able to plan the event successfully by partnering with Yale Hillel, which was planning a similar event, and obtaining funding from the Dean’s Office.

CommUNITY Week will kick off Tuesday evening with a panel discussion in the Branford common room featuring a group of Yale professors and administrators who will speak on their personal experiences with race and ethnicity. Other events will include a dinner at the Asian American Cultural Center for students and campus religious leaders to discuss different faiths, a traditional Iroquois social and an open mic cafe with Korean-American author Ishle Yi Park and Yale poets, singers, a cappella groups and other performers.

In addition to the multiple cultural groups co-sponsoring the week, other participating groups include the Multifaith Council at Yale, the LGBTQ Student Cooperative, the Yale Women’s Center and the American Studies Department.

Yale Hillel board member Amanda Rubin ’09 said she hopes the diversity of support for the week’s events will give students a reason to look beyond their own cultures.

“Students on campus, for whatever reason, tend to focus on their own culture because they are so dedicated to it or don’t feel they have time to step outside their comfort zone,” she said. “That’s a shame because we really should be able to take advantage of diversity on campus.

AASA co-moderator Christine Nguyen ’09 said she thinks the week is a fresh approach to recognizing the different communities on campus, though it is not designed to combat past incidents of racism.

“The week is a chance to recognize diversity and how it is beneficial rather than a reaction to something that has happened in the past,” she said.

CommUNITY Week will culminate Saturday with a dance party in the Ezra Stiles and Morse dining halls featuring performances by student dance groups.

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