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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Communication needed between student groups

Everybody knows diversity matters. For college students, an important way for us to explore the idea is through various student groups on campus. That's probably why UW-Madison now hosts a dazzling number of student organizations. While ""diversity by numbers"" is without doubt a convenient criterion to measure our progress, student participation should be the ultimate standard to gauge the quality of UW's diversity. However, the current lack of communication between student organizations has become a major obstacle deterring students from fully appreciating campus diversity.

Anyone who has been to student organization fairs will find this scenario familiar. You set out to find groups that interest you most, but the plethora of information can easily throw you into confusion—a handful of fliers makes you look like a coupon maniac. Curious and diligent, you become dedicated to discovering what could end up being your favorite group among the hundreds of organizations. This is especially typical for new students; you spend some extra time doing research so you can end up learning and socializing with a bunch of like-minded individuals. But let's be realistic. Even if your inquiring mind spares only one minute for each group, it can take up to 10 hours, and you may still not find the information you want most. On the surface, all the student groups add up to a flashy diversity banquet for us. But in fact the whole hail of disorganized information makes it very hard to make a well-rounded decision. If diversity is not delivered in a way that students can conveniently enjoy, the whole point of ""Inclusive Excellence"" will be lost.

For student organizations, fostering communication with peer groups also improves their services to students. When board members from one organization know other groups better, they can weed out repetitive information before presenting themselves to fellow students. This allows all of us to explore diversity more efficiently.

Another direct benefit from increased group-to-group interaction is resource sharing. An environmental advocacy group like UW Energy Hub may offer students a good introduction about the issue. But we all agree energy itself is such a broad topic that students' debates could easily fall into pointless generalizations. So how about some hands-on experience with energy or a local perspective? The Environmental Studies Group has an emphasis on field trips. And the people at Wisconsin Ecology probably have good ideas as well. For students, developing their interests from multiple angles is definitely a rewarding experience.

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More importantly, reaching out to other groups is at its core a great diversity initiative. A few years ago, Cornell University launched a novel diversity program: Breaking Bread. Like many other campuses, Ithaca didn't see enough efforts to bridge the differences between student groups. Breaking Bread encourages networking between student organizations by funding small group dinners and collaborative programming. If the two groups don't end up hosting any joint events, the university's spending on the dinner will have to be reimbursed. By investing in the initiative, Cornell has shown its deep commitment to diversity.

At UW-Madison, dialogue between student groups is badly needed. For most organizations on campus, their only communication with peer groups is with the Student Services Finance Committee or the Finance Committee of ASM. Even something like this may happen just once in a year, when student organizations vie for limited funds. Increased collaboration between student organizations benefit groups themselves as well as students. By incorporating more diverse perspectives, they would make their efforts more visible and could thus garner more support.

Diversity should be an integral part of any college education. When prediction models show minorities will make up 55 percent of the working-age population in the U.S. by 2050, a global perspective has become a life skill. As students' direct window into diversity, student organizations should work together more to bring the concept into practice.

Qi Gu is a junior majoring in journalism. Please send responses to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

 

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