By the numbers, Religion Week was a great success for the student groups that organized it. A Diwali dance performance drew more than 400 students, and the Festivals of Faiths filled Kogan Plaza. But a closer look at these events highlights a concern we should all keep in mind – how diverse we really are. Last week’s events overcame the first stumbling block to social segregation by attracting a mix of students. While a majority in the audiences were either members of the organizing groups or their friends (or simply students looking for a free burger), they were there to support the mission. Students should follow this example and get out of their comfort zones to achieve real diversity at GW.
GW is a diverse place if you look at the statistics. A lot of people from a lot of different places, religions and cultures call GW home. But how much do we actually interact with each other? We have more than 250 student organizations, many of which are culture-based. But rather than support interaction between people of different backgrounds, these groups often appear to be enclaves of uniformity. Activities that aim to bring different groups together, like some of the Religion Week events, can help students increase their awareness of other cultures, and students should help these groups achieve their mission.
Too often cultural events draw only members of the group sponsoring the event. The fact students do not take advantage of these events does little to improve understanding and tolerance for cultural differences. Instead, students should seek out other cultures and become friends with people of other ethnic and cultural groups.
Hosting events in the Marvin Center is a good start, but that is not enough by itself. Branching out beyond campus to draw students out of their routines may prove successful. For weekend events, groups could find that nearby restaurants tend to attract larger crowds than campus locations like the Hippodrome. Kogan Plaza has certainly proved to be a great venue.
Being different is never easy. Standing out because of your dress, skin color, language or any number of other factors can make a person uncomfortable and self conscious. But we have to get past those jitters if we expect to reach a point where we all understand each other. And experience is the only way to achieve that comfort level.
Making GW a truly diverse and inclusive place will take individual and group efforts. Meeting different people and standing out yourself takes courage. Be brave.