Posted February 11, 2015 by Scarlett Winters 

Exploring Unity on the College Campus

Unity circle stock artEach year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Indiana University presents the Unity Summit. The Unity Summit is co-sponsored by several campus offices, including the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, the Union Board, the Office of Student Life and Learning, and the IU Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee. It received the IU Program of the Year award in 2010 and has consistently been a popular event on campus. The event attracts between 300 and 400 participants per year and just celebrated its 10th anniversary with this year’s event.

As many as 40 volunteers were needed for the event. I had the pleasure of volunteering as a small group facilitator on behalf of ACUI. Other volunteers came from organizations throughout the IU campus community.

As people entered, their nametags determined the table where they would be seated; the designated tables were meant to encourage attendees to meet new people with whom they might not usually connect. Three of the attendees were local police officers eager to demonstrate their desire to be a part of building unity in the community and on campus. The summit is free and begins with a meal, a unifying act within a variety of cultures. After the meal, and throughout the event, each table engages in small group discussions regarding discrimination and inclusion on and off campus. This year’s summit featured two speakers who shared personal stories that have shaped their lives. A musical performance and dramatic skits were also included.

Perhaps one of the most powerful features of the event involved posters that had been up around campus with starts of sentences, such as “As a minority I feel…” or “As a male I feel….” Markers were left with the posters so that people on campus could finish the sentences. Each of the posters were hung throughout the room so that attendees could add to or read from them. One of the posters asked what groups the writer would like to eliminate from campus. The organizers of the event had everyone stand. As they called out names of the groups listed, members of that group were asked to sit down. At the end, no one was left standing. The point of this exercise was to demonstrate that our campuses would be empty if everyone could eliminate the people with whom they did not want to associate. The importance of unity was made abundantly clear.

How does your campus promote unity throughout the year?
Scarlett Winters

Scarlett Winters is the Online Engagement Specialist at ACUI.

Scarlett serves as liaison to the ACUI communities of practice and Online Learning Team, and is librarian for The Exchange digital resource library. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in instructional systems technology from Indiana University.

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