This archived article was written by: Katrina Wood
To promote acceptance and inclusion to all, on Saturday, April 11, 2015, USU Eastern held its first annual diversity and inclusion conference in the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center.
USUE’s diversity and inclusion conference was arranged by Evette Allen, director of student life, and featured Father Brendan Pelphrey as the keynote speaker. It offered a series of workshops focusing on accepting and embracing others’ differences, including workshops focusing on body image, substance abuse, race, students with disabilities and more.
The conference began with an opening speech by Allen, focusing on exposing USUE faculty, staff and students, as well as Price as a whole, to diverse ideas and people. She introduced and described social justice as a vision of society where there is an equitable distribution of resources and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. She explained that equity—where everyone gets what they need—is more important than equality—where everyone gets the same thing.
Later, Allen discussed “privilege” and how it affects dominant and marginalized groups of society. She described privilege, the unearned benefit based on agent-group membership, as something one doesn’t have to think about if they have. “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.”
To teach the attendees more about privilege, diversity and inclusion, the conference split for workshops. With five choices for the first session and four for the second, topics included body image and body shaming; discussions on social constructions of race; substance abuse; celebrating LGBTQ friends and family; working with international students; Latinos in higher education; sex, drugs, and the harm reduction approach; gender roles and women’s issues; and working with students with disabilities.
Attendees had a wide variety of interesting discussions and presentations to attend. Before choosing, however, Allen encouraged attendees to visit workshops that made them uncomfortable, telling them that being uncomfortable gives room for learning.
After both workshop sessions, the conference gathered for lunch. During this time, Father Pelphrey, the keynote speaker, addressed the group on cultures and the many levels they exist at; such as macrocultures, microcultures, sub-cultures and so on.
Pelphrey shared his ideas and strategies on associating with other cultures. He compared dealing with different cultures to crossing the road.“There’s two things you can do at a crossroads,” Pelphrey said. “You can cross carefully and really appreciate crossing, or you can wreck.”
Pelphrey offered a series of steps when dealing with new cultures. First, he told attendees to stop and examine the behavior of the culture. Next, he advised them to look and pay attention to where they’re at; then, to listen and ask questions. After that, he told them to look both ways and meet new people. Finally he told attendees to enjoy the culture and people.
In closing, Pelphrey analyzed the stages one experiences when living in a new culture. These included cultural denial/nirvana stage, cultural shock, cultural stress and cultural adaption. He ended with a positively with the importance of being kind and considerate when associating with other cultures.
USU Eastern’s first annual diversity and inclusion conference featured various though-provoking presentations and speeches. It focused on the importance of accepting and including diverse people and ideas, and opened many people’s eyes to the troubles others experience.