Inclusive Illinois Day encourages diversity, acceptance

In an effort to honor cultural diversity across campus, the University celebrated Inclusive Illinois Day across campus Wednesday.

The Office of Equal Opportunity and Access partnered with many colleges and units to host this University-wide event. Kaamilyah Abdullah-Span, associate director of the office, said this event was created in September 2009 as an opportunity for new students and faculty members to commit to respecting individual experiences, backgrounds and cultures. For returning students and faculty, it’s a reminder to recommit to the University’s values concerning diversity and to participate in programs that promote those values, she said.

“Inclusive Illinois Day is our individual and collective promise to be inclusive of all people, irrespective of ability, national origin, geographic region, language, race, ethnicity, religion, class, difference of opinion and all other identities that define us,” Abdullah-Span said.

OEOA set up 21 education stations to inform students about the benefits of a diverse university and how important it is to be inclusive and respectful of all backgrounds. These tables and displays were scattered across campus.

Those who visited stations were encouraged to make the following commitment: “I will encourage the expression of different voices, perspectives and ideas. I will challenge my own beliefs, opinions and viewpoints. I will advocate for an accessible, safe and respectful environment to enhance the living, learning and working community at Illinois. I will acknowledge and respect the multiple identities represented in each individual. My commitment will be demonstrated by my voice and my conduct.” Students who wish to submit may still do so online at illinois.edu.

Chelsea Diaz, sophomore in DGS, made this promise her freshman year and continues to believe in its values.

“I think it’s important to respect the unique people around you,” she said. “People’s experiences can teach you things about the world that you never even knew existed.”

Chancellor Phyllis Wise said in an email that Inclusive Illinois Day is a day in which students and faculty can celebrate their individual and shared commitments to the inclusivity of the campus.

“It is a day where we can celebrate our many voices, our intersecting identities and our unique contributions to this great university,” she said.

“Most importantly, though, it is not about a day, it is about a lifestyle, a way of life and a way of living in the world and society that embraces, celebrates and welcomes differences and diversity.”

Abudllah-Span said she hopes members of the Illinois community understand that this day isn’t a one-day commitment but is a daily and collective responsibility.

She said students should engage in programs and efforts that enable appreciation for the unique cultures on campus.

“These interactions will inevitably expand students’ experiences, cultural competencies and self-awareness,” Abdullah-Span said. “These experiences ultimately shape students’ identity, their perspective and even their future opportunities.”

Wise said there are unlimited opportunities for students on campus to engage in the diversity of the University — from curriculum to registered student organizations.

“I encourage all of our students to move outside of their comfort zones to broaden their experiences and exposure to new ideas, new people and new places as part of their Illinois Experience,” she said.

Klaudia can be reached at [email protected]