Race relations forum follows Clinton agenda

About 30 students, mostly members of Greek-letter organizations, gathered for a Greek town hall meeting Wednesday to discuss President Clinton’s initiative on race.

“Clinton called for communities and campuses to have a dialog on race, not a debate,” said Melvin Brock, interim director of the Multicultural Student Services Center, who read from the White House document entitled, “Campus Day of Dialogue.”

“Clinton wanted to engage those who might not otherwise interact,” Brock said.

Brock and Karen Wiederman, assistant director of the International Services Office, moderated the event and put students into groups to discuss race relations on campus and in their hometown.

Students answered questions about who they are and what they can do to make a difference. The groups shared their experiences growing up and what they thought of race relations on campus.

Elvira Ramos, chair of Latinos for Progress, said Latinos have a “long way to go” for fair representation on GW’s campus.

“There’s a huge difference between international students and domestic Latinos from America,” Ramos said.

Most students agreed that GW is diverse, but that groups segregate themselves.

Robert Cannaday, counselor for MSSC, said he grew up in the segregated South in the 1960s and can appreciate self-segregation.

“Segregation was legal back then,” Cannaday said. “When you drove from Washington to Alabama, you could not stop at any gas station around 1963 or 1964. Things are starting to open up now.”

Students discussed how GW’s historically black sororities and fraternities are segregated from the fraternities and sororities in the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association.

“(Black sororities and fraternities) are founded on different principles,” said Nakiba Williams, a member of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority. “The whole reason (black Greek-letter organizations) came together is different to why (IFC and Panhellenic groups) got together.”‘

Ron Jackson, a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, said the answer is not in black and white. “(Black sororities and fraternities) came together not because of color, but because of purpose.”

Jackson, adviser for the National Pan Hellenic Council and organizer of the forum, said he was pleased with the event.

“I was happy about the program’s turnout,” he said. “I think the small numbers helped out with the free flow of conversation.”

He also said this program could set an example for future events at GW.

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