Inclusive Illinois seeks more student input

By Lisa Chung

The Inclusive Illinois campaign, which was launched at the beginning of the semester as part of the chancellor’s One Campus, Many Voices initiative, is continuing to create and recognize different methods of improving the campus climate.

In conjunction with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access, the campaign has organized more than 60 presentations regarding diversity and tolerance across campus to different departmental units, said Menah Pratt-Clarke, associate director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access and the assistant provost.

A student advisory group of about 25 members – including undergraduates, graduates and professional students – has also been formed to examine issues of student outreach in order to create ambassador programs and help develop the Inclusive Illinois Web site in a way that will attract more users, Pratt-Clarke said.

Tichina Moore, a member of the student advisory group and a sophomore in LAS, executes ambassador work for the campaign and is working to increase awareness of federal work study programs for minority students.

“We have to focus on ethical, moral ideas and look at how different people think,” Moore said. “We need to figure out ways to appeal to different students on campus and expand on the definition of minorities.”

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    Although there is no easy solution for transforming bias and prejudice in society, the first steps are to make sure that the University community is aware of the expected University standards, in terms of conduct and tolerance.

    “You have to start somewhere,” Pratt-Clarke said. “Over time, it will help the University to recruit and retain a diverse faculty, staff and student body.”

    As there is no clear-cut solution to resolve issues of campus climate, the University community has to understand that this is an “on-going program,” said Larine Cowan, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access and assistant chancellor.

    Beginning in the spring 2008 semester, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access will be working aggressively with student groups to help transform campus climate and increase participation, Pratt-Clarke said.

    The public awareness campaign’s organizers are working with students of the American Advertising Federation, a University Registered Student Organization, to design an outreach initiative that would succeed in connecting with the most students, she said.

    Although the campaign is still in its developing phase, by next year it should be more of an initiative. The goal is to increase its awareness on campus, said Ashley McGowan, a member of the student advisory board working through the American Advertising Federation and a senior in Communications.

    Since McGowan has joined the student advisory board, she said she has changed her views on inclusivity and has become more aware of cultural happenings on campus.

    “(The campus) has a lot to offer, and if people knew about them,” she said, “They would be more willing to participate.”

    As for the future, McGowan said she hopes that “acceptance of cultural diversity” will replace mere tolerance of differences.

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