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Diversity and race discussions being held on campus

by Jessica Cuffman

ATHENS, Ohio -- "Embracing diversity enriches education," said Ohio University President Roderick McDavis on April 7 during his welcome address at the first of three panel discussions that make up the first annual "Race and the Spectrum of Critical Consciousness" Colloquium series. The second discussion is scheduled for Friday, April 21.

"It's not every day you get to pick the brains of these professors. This country is grappling with immigration, grappling with what the United States is," said Jordan Robinson, a junior journalism major.

Amanda Nolacea Harris, a Modern Languages professor and coordinator of the event, discussed "Cultural Relativism and What Unites United States Culture During the Discussion."

"African and African-American identity in the United States" was Professor Arthur Hughes' topic, As a Spanish educator, he focused on the context of rhetoric and how it affects the context of race in a society.

Critical race theory, with an emphasis on the importance of one's history in forming one's identity was Najee E. Muhammad's focus from his perspective as an education and cultural studies professor.

Different divisions of the university created the conference as a colloquium for understanding terms, concepts, and histories dealing with race.

"Culture is the invisible conscience of all curricula," and, "Diversity deals with the symptom, not the problem," were two points Muhammad focused on as connections between race and education.

Following the three presentations, the floor was opened to questions and discussion with the audience. Racial identity and how a person determines his or her role in society was the main issue of debate.

Robinson, a member of the Muslim Student Organization, used himself as an example during the dialogue, noting his struggle with identity as part Palestinian. "Because of political events, I have a particular symbolic identity that I had nothing to do with. There are people that I don't know, defining who I am. But a lot of people don't have that issue," he said.

"Until you face these issues, you can never fully understand the depth and complexity of how that makes one feel. The colloquiums address those issues, and they'll touch a few people and be very beneficial for them," Robinson said.

The second part of the conference, "Institutional Discrimination and Language," takes place 3-5 p.m. Friday, April 21, in the Elizabeth Baker Room in Baker Center. Scheduled presentations include "Institutional Racism in 20th Century America" by McNair Scholars Chair Valerie Mendoza; "Language Discrimination and Language Right in the United States" by socio-linguist Manolo Triano Lupez; and the "Relation between Dominant and Marginal Discourses in Migrant Communities of France" by Modern Languages Chair Fred Toner.

The final colloquium, "Diversity, Ethics, Appropriations, and Opportunities," takes place at the same time and place on Friday, April 28. Scheduled presentations include the "Contextualization of Local Diversity Issues" by University College Dean David Descutner; "The Cooptation of Diversity" by Professor of English George Hartley; and "Racist Essentialism, Class Markers, and Ethnic Choices" by Modern Languages Professor Amado Lscar.

The African Studies, Latin American Studies, Educational Studies, and English departments, University College, College of Arts and Sciences, the Latino Student Union, and the Muslim Student Organization all contributed to the conference, which was organized by Harris and Julia Philipson.

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Media Contact: Media Specialist George Mauzy, 740.597.1794

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