CMA provides an opportunity for minority groups to speak out
Thursday gave American Indians their turn to experience community in a week-long string of multicultural events held by CU’s Center for Multicultural Affairs.
Students from all different backgrounds joined the evening, although it was mostly comprised of those with American Indian heritage. Several CMA leaders had been attending all week, and Thursday night was no exception.
Because of cool weather, CU’s small Native American community was forced to gather inside Cheyenne Arapaho’s upper east dining hall, as opposed to Regent’s north lawn, where the previous ceremonies were held. But regardless of the weather, students circled around friends and barbeque and chatted away.
Some well-known faces attended, such Carmen Williams, the assistant vice president for diversity at CU. When she was asked about the unrest within much of the minority population, she provided a positive outlook.
“The students and their interest in activism is, in essence, what the university’s administration pays attention to. It’s what promotes change,” Williams said. “We obviously have a long way to go in terms of diversity, so I don’t blame a lot of students for being upset. I think we’re improving, it’s just extremely difficult to appease everybody.”
Williams said that the number of incoming American Indian students this year nearly doubled from last year’s numbers, but she is looking for more when it comes to diversity.
“We’re increasing the numbers, so that technically means diversity is improving, but the main problem lies in inclusion, which is different from diversity. (It’s) promoting a healthier and more welcoming environment for all students, regardless of race,” Williams said.
Linda Hogan, a professor of American Indian studies, voiced her discontent at the current diversity situation on campus.
“How could they feel comfortable?” Hogan said. “Just look at the numbers.”
However, echoing Williams, Hogan is concerned with other factors aside from the numbers of American Indian students.
“One needs to consider the fact that American Indians are originally a tribal people, as opposed to being under one banner,” Hogan said. “They definitely feel different from everybody in the sense that they’re not assimilated in Western society, and many of them don’t want to be. It’s like this celluloid boundary that’s really difficult to explain.”
However, the one student expressed a more optimistic perception of their American Indian community here at CU.
“I admit I wasn’t comfortable, at first, going here, but once I found a community that I could become involved in, I felt very supported and motivated to continue my studies towards success,” said Christina Prairie Chicken, a junior psychology major.
Unfortunately, many American Indians do not consider educational success as a realistic opportunity, but Leslee Caballero, CMA’s director for American Indian student services, offered a few words of encouragement to a community that has already grabbed hold of a higher education.
“I think things are going well,” Caballero said. “We still have some ways to go, and the numbers of native students seems to stay stagnant every year, but there are always going to be those barriers, usually financial, or something related to money that prevents them from considering the possibility of an education. But that’s why we offer scholarship to over 15 different tribes, just to give you an idea of the diversity among the community.”