Inside USD

Inclusivity in Community Championed at USD

Thursday, March 10, 2011

While many University of San Diego students spent their December/January semester break free from the stress of tests, doing research and homework, Marc Gonzales was just getting started.

The freshman, director for intercultural on the Associated Students’ Torero Program Board, was the point person for promoting and planning USD’s fourth annual University of Diversity Week, which ran from March 4-10.

“I began brainstorming possible events for University of Diversity Week during my winter break,” Gonzales said. “Planning for the March of the Toreros really started to become a reality when I came back to USD for the spring semester. Halfway through February I established a committee to assist in the organizing of events for the week.”

On Thursday, the final event of the seven-day, nine-event celebration of diversity with the theme of “Call to Solidarity,” was a faculty and staff panel discussion about the creation of an inclusive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students. That event, like the others, provided students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni and friends of the university a chance to come together and celebrate differences.

“The University of Diversity Week hopes to encourage all students of USD to recognize their individual differences and to feel welcome on campus,” said Gonzales who worked with many different organizations on campus to cover all his bases. “It aims to ensure that all students, no matter age, ethnic background, race, sexual orientation, gender, or religious background feel included. I hope that all can realize their own diversity and celebrate it here at USD.”

Multicultural Night and Salsa Night kicked off the week last Friday, followed by food and fun at Taste of Diversity on Saturday. Multicultural Comedy Night on Monday presented an ethnically diverse roster of comedians, led by Ernie G., who, in addition to providing laughter inside the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice Theatre, brought forth a message of empowerment that resonated with all students in attendance.

“The comedy night was an awesome event because issues surrounding inclusion and diversity were addressed in a way that is not usual when discussed,” said Diana Rodriguez-Agiss, a USD junior and a University of Diversity Week Committee member. “The students got some food for thought while having fun and it also gave us the opportunity to embrace our culture and the cultures of others. It reinforced the pride we feel and celebrate the diverse experiences of every student at USD.”

Tuesday was the busiest day of the week with three events. The seventh annual IPJ International Women’s Day breakfast kicked off the day. Keynote speaker, award-winning filmmaker Abigail Disney, talked about her work profiling women peacemakers making a difference in war-torn countries. Kip Fulbeck, a multitalented filmmaker, slam poet, artist and author of Part Asian, 100% Hapa, discussed the issue of multiracial identity in America.

The highlight of the day, though, was Gonzales’ biggest programming event of the week, March of the Toreros. A strong turnout of campus community members walked peacefully and proudly from Maher Hall to the Institute for Peace & Justice’s Garden of the Sky area. Executive Vice President and Provost Julie Sullivan and Mayté Perez-Franco, director of the United Front Multicultural Center and co-director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, spoke to the crowd. Entertainment, informational booths and refreshments were provided, too.

Gonzales said the months of planning paid off. “All of the reception at the March of the Toreros was my favorite part,” he said. “It was such a humbling experience to see the long line of students, faculty, staff and administrators march toward the IPJ. The crowd was so big and there were so many people who marched in appreciation for diversity and to stand and against intolerance.”

Wednesday, which marked the start of Lent, promoted religious diversity on campus. Two events took place, including “A Time for Reflection” an opportunity for a discussion in a unique location — the rooftop of the Student Life Pavilion. Mass for Peace, which takes place every Wednesday night at 9 in Founders Chapel during the academic year, provided the campus community one last chance to attend an Ash Wednesday service.

While Thursday’s event closes out a celebration for diversity, it’s the hope of many that this past week has not only been enjoyed by the campus community, but also that it sparks more discussion and more reflection.

“I feel the message that USD students are committed to fostering an inclusive community was the main purpose of this entire week. I know it was vivid and explicit this week, but it would be awesome if students showed their commitment to diversity and inclusion every day, not only during University of Diversity Week,” Rodriguez-Agiss said. “I hope this week serves as a starting point for those who had not always had the opportunity to attend such events and a continuation for those who have.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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