Club leaders address segregation and cultural barriers

The Intercultural Council’s club leaders social highlights inclusiveness issues across campus

Jessica Klymchuk, News Editor Ω

Heather Pratt-Johnson of McGill Residence and Acacia Schmietenknop of Enactus discuss solutions for culture-related barriers among and within clubs. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Heather Pratt-Johnson of McGill Residence and Acacia Schmietenknop of Enactus discuss solutions for culture-related barriers among and within clubs. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Everyone in the room was told to close their eyes. Upon opening them, each had a coloured sticker on their forehead, and when they were asked to silently group up, they sorted themselves by colour.

Some were pushed out of groups where they didn’t match, while others were pulled in where they did match.

“Why did you go by colour?” Kyra Garson asked when they finished. “All I said was get into groups.”

“This is what happens on campus.”

The TRU Intercultural Council hosted the campus leaders social on Oct. 10 to begin a campus-wide conversation about cultural separation. The council brought together around 100 of TRU’s club and association leaders in an effort to begin creating partnerships between groups on campus.

“We want to challenge each other to work together,” said Craig Engleson, founder of the council and TRU World employee.  “We want everyone to be involved.”

Groups were represented widely across campus with leaders from TRUSU, Enactus, the Visual Arts Student Association, both residences, the focus club, the writer’s club, the pride club, the Japanese club, the Pakistan club, the student leadership club, Kappa Sigma and Zeta Beta Psi, just to name a few.

Garson, TRU intercultural consultant, led different activities to stimulate cultural conversation and address inclusiveness issues that affect every group in one way or another. It took the attendees under three minutes to organize themselves by colour, even without being able to see their own colour. Garson said that is always the case.

“Really, the world is on our campus,” she said.

Craig Engleson, founder of the Intercultural Council, encouraged club leaders to keep cultural conversations active and work towards further partnerships. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Craig Engleson, founder of the Intercultural Council, encouraged club leaders to keep cultural conversations active and work towards further partnerships. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Together, the leaders identified common cultural issues on campus as differing customs among cultures, lack of international or domestic representation in a group, communication barriers, lack of outside engagement and cultural pressure.

When asked to design events that would counteract these problems they suggested club meet-and-greets and quarterly leader meetings. It was also suggested that orientation be restructured so international, domestic and Aboriginal students aren’t separated.

While the energy was high, Engleson said the challenge would be to prolong the momentum. While every club could identify their inclusiveness issues, addressing them is a whole other challenge.

“We don’t have the answers,” he said.

Engleson said it’s common, even among international students, to congregate with one’s own ethnic group.

“When you take it across campus, you see the same thing,” he said. “It’s a real lost opportunity.”

There are three major identifiers on campus: domestic, international and Aboriginal, and although there are resources for everyone, Engleson said it’s hard to reach every group simultaneously.

The International Student Activity Program (ISAP) organizes social events for international students, but it’s not limited to them.

“The word international is a strong word so it scares off domestic and Aboriginal students, but that’s not its intent,” said ISAP council member Vince Watson.

According to Watson, there is a push to re-brand ISAP to become more inclusive, but in the meantime the Intercultural Council was created to host on-campus events that incorporate all cultures and ethic backgrounds across campus.

After its inception last year, it hosted events such as the battle of the DJs, a movie night and several low-key events such as speed dating.

“We are growing, but lots of people still don’t know about us,” said Watson.

The council wanted to host a meet-and-greet type event where leaders on campus could meet the council, meet each other and form universal goals for inclusiveness.

Because the Intercultural Council is run under ISAP, it receives all its funding through international students and has resources that it can offer clubs if they choose to collaborate on events.

Club leaders across campus converged at the Intercultural Council's club leaders social. Representatives from most TRUSU clubs were in attendance. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Club leaders across campus converged at the Intercultural Council’s club leaders social. Representatives from most TRUSU clubs were in attendance. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Watson said the idea is to avoid clubs hosting similar events separately. By holding one large event, clubs can avoid high costs and increase turnout while also bringing together a diverse group of people.

Although this wasn’t the largest event the Intercultural Council will hold, Watson said it was the most important one.

“I’ve met lots of new people and heard some really great ideas,” Katrina Misko of the student leadership club said, adding that she plans on using the suggestions in the upcoming student leadership conference the club plans to host.

Before the end of the night, the human resource club, the visual arts club and the pride club had a preliminary plan to host a fashion show together.

“This is just us trying to be a part of the answer,” Engleson said.

One Response

  1. Carrie Oct. 27, 2013