UCR Students Host April 15 Discussion on Diversity

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“The Importance of Unity” tackles perspectives on diversity, efforts to overturn affirmative action ban

By on April 11, 2014

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The importance of unity is April 15 discussion topic.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — As the debate about overturning California’s ban on affirmative action intensifies, students at the University of California, Riverside will hold a discussion on racial diversity and racial justice on Tuesday, April 15, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Highlander Union Building, Room 379.

“The Importance of Unity: Student Leaders Discuss Racial Diversity and Racial Justice” event is free and open to the public. Parking permits may be purchased at the kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to the campus.

Much of the debate about overturning Prop. 209, which in 1996 banned affirmative action in state government institutions, has occurred in the Asian American community, particularly in the Chinese American community, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, associate professor of political science at UCR and director of the National Asian American Survey. Recent efforts to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot failed.

“Most of the discussions have been in town hall settings among parents who might someday send their children to the UC system,” he said. “This is one of the first times that we are getting to hear from students themselves. Their perspectives are critical to knowing how racial diversity is understood and experienced in the UC system.”

The event is part of a continuing discussion students began in the winter quarter, said Abe Galvan, one of the organizers and an ASUCR senator representing the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

“UCR prides itself on its diversity,” he said of the campus, which ranks as one of the most diverse research universities in the country. “We are very diverse and we need to use that to our advantage. We have a special privilege to have critical conversations about issues that affect students of color and all students on campus.”

Galvan, a second-year political science major, said the value of diversity became apparent to him when he visited UCR while in high school and immediately felt comfortable as a Hispanic student on a campus “that is reflective of California’s population.”

As a UCR student, he said, he discovered perspectives that differed among racial and ethnic groups. “With diversity comes an exchange of perspectives,” he added. “With new perspectives come new understandings, when those perspectives are shared. … This event is about our need to have a conversation about the status of diversity and affirmative action on our campuses. We cannot have a full understanding of how affirmative action works until we have the perspective of everyone who has a stake in it.”

The hope is to have a thoughtful and constructive engagement with the issue of racial diversity in colleges, such as what students gain from that diversity and how they manage challenges that may arise from that diversity, said William Caganap, interim director of Asian Pacific Student Programs.

“Some of our Asian American students who come from the San Gabriel Valley have expressed an interest in having such a forum,” he explained. “They have heard a lot from their parents, and seen the news stories coming out of the area, and they feel like they need to be better informed before making a decision on the issue of restoring some aspects of affirmative action.”

Tuesday’s event is sponsored by African Student Programs, Asian Pacific Student Programs, Chicano Student Programs, Middle Eastern Student Center, and Native American Student Programs.

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