Program on Intergroup Relations encourages diversity, awareness

By Nick Zombolas

Many campus organizations have their own ways of promoting their missions, be it through chalking the Quad or hosting rallies. However, the Program on Intergroup Relations (PIR) is taking a different route – movie nights.

PIR is a University program that encourages dialogue between students from different cultural and social backgrounds.

Periodically through the end of November, PIR is holding movie nights so members of the campus community can discuss the topics presented by different videos in their collection.

The next movie in the series, which will focus on diversity in language, will be shown tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. in room 429 of the Armory. Diversity and social justice issues are among the upcoming subjects.

Through these movie nights, the group attempts to provide students with an educational experience dealing with open discussions on discrimination based on different identity groups – class, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and more.

PIR hopes to better students’ understanding of these topics and promote skills in responding to differences and conflicts.

“We’re about helping students see how they can become involved in different issues that are important to them,” said Paul Poteat, graduate assistant with PIR.

Poteat, who is in his second year with the program, said PIR also holds intergroup dialogues. These are face-to-face meetings between students from different identity groups. In the meetings, students can discuss similarities and differences while exploring the other person’s identity group.

“Our dialogues are not a debate. We really want to build off individuals’ experiences,” he said.

Outside the group, PIR offers courses in educational organization and leadership. These courses can be taken for seven weeks during the second half of the semester for one credit hour. Students can also take a course for 10 weeks and earn two credit hours, according to Poteat.

“We are really branching out,” he said. “The courses have assigned readings and activities we ask the students to do while we accompany the classes.”

These courses work similarly to the face-to-face meetings held in PIR’s intergroup dialogues. In such courses, students are encouraged to discuss their own personal experiences.

Neil Reimer, sophomore in LAS and resident adviser in the Florida Avenue Residence halls, said a group such as PIR is a good idea.

“A group like this has a lot of potential to be beneficial to campus,” he said.

By having movie nights, Reimer said he thought the group would be able to attract more students to their program.

“If they work on educating other people who aren’t quite so open-minded about diversity issues, then they will be beneficial,” he said.

“But I think it’s good that they are around so they can concentrate on the people who are all about building diversity and getting to know each other. That way they can be more organized in educating others about it.”

Psychology professor Gregory Miller said a group like PIR is necessary on such a large campus.

“The larger the campus, the more necessary a group such as this is,” he said.

Miller also said PIR has been very beneficial to the University in its programming so far.

“(PIR) has a very good reputation,” he said. “Everyone that benefits from the group will have contact with many other students and a network effect will occur.”