Diversity Dialogue and social justice values

Jessica Guerrucci Managing Editor

Dignity, respect, kindness, compassion and civility – Southern’s social justice values carried into larger conversation about diversity as a whole that Asma Rahimyar, said helped students find “a common thread.”

“You’re at a table with people who come from completely different religions than you do, completely different cultures than you do and completely different sorts of perspectives on life,” said Rahimyar, president of the Muslim Student Association and a facilitator.

As a part of social justice month, students participated in a game called “Diversity Dialogues” on Monday, Nov. 4. The game involved several facilitators at different tables and had students start with “icebreaker” questions to get students comfortable, and then it went into more sensitive topics such as race, class, gender and religion. One rule of the game that was intended to teach a lesson, was that students could not chime into the conversation.

They had to listen to students responses and could not comment on their responses until a designated time when the round concluded. “A lot of times we always talk but we don’t listen,” said Dian BrownAlbert, coordinator of the Multicultural Center.

“So this game is intentional that you purposely have to listen to what the person has to say.”

The requirement to listen, is something Rahimyar said she appreciated about the game.

“I absolutely sort of love the idea behind not answering questions originally because I think listening is such an underrated aspect of being a leader, being a good citizen, just being a responsible human being,” she said.

Brown-Albert said the focus of the game was to elicit conversations about diverse issues. She said the goal is for students to become more aware of how they respond to those topics as well as keen listening to other students culture, identity, and how they identify.

“They’re important because self-awareness is important. If you’re at a university with a diverse population of students, whether it’s race, class, gender, people may look different, but don’t judge a book by its cover,” said Brown-Albert.

The questions were intended to be difficult to answer, and Rahimyar said she saw one student who was sitting at her table struggle to respond.

“One of the guys at our table, he got a card that said, ‘Which traits would you assume are feminine in a leader and which traits are masculine in a leader? And how do you think women and men are perceived in their perspective leadership roles?’” said Rahimyar. “He had a difficult time figuring out how to answer that question.”

However, despite being afraid to say the wrong thing, Rahimyar said the student found a way to respond in which he named emotion as a feminine trait, but noted that emotion, and having compassion, are what make women good leaders.

At the end of the event, the conversation was opened to the entire room, and what Sabrina Maldanado, graduate intern for Multicultural Center, who coordinated the event, said what stuck out to her was a student who said he had never been asked these questions before.

“That was really heartwarming to me because that’s the point of the game,” said Maldanado. “We want people who aren’t used to these conversations to be shown these conversations, so that did make my night.”

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