UI leaders listen

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UI leaders listen

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Elianna Novitch 

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Early this week, in the walls of the multicultural houses on the West Campus, leaders such as President Bruce Harreld and University of Iowa Student Government President Rachel Zuckerman began a series of conversations with students of the African-American and LGBTQ communities.

On Monday, the first community conversation was held at the Afro-American Cultural Center. It was an intimate, casual setup that played host to an informative conversation.

Zuckerman began by saying, “This is an opportunity for students to lead the conversation. As a student-government leader, I act as the liaison between the administration and students quite a bit, and we thought it was important that we have some time for direct conversation about issues directly related with your community.”

Some of the major issues that were talked about included the renovation and future of the Afro-American house, the addition of a racial bias training session to On Iowa, and the addition of a no-racism policy to syllabi.

Regarding the house, Harreld noted he had learned plenty about the multicultural houses.

“I’ve only been here 10 months, and I have heard a lot of concern about this issue. So I did what I was trained to do, I got out of my office and started looking at [the houses],” he said. “I was curious as to where they were, what was inside, and what the condition of the houses were. I came to some conclusions, one being that we could make these more usable and more accessible. There is a lot we can do.”

As the evening continued, comments flowed back and forth and ideas were shared for what could be changed, added, and looked into in order to make the campus a more inclusive place.

“My spirits are really high right now. I think you could see the progression through the conversation,” Zuckerman said at the end of the discussion. “It started with a level of distrust that I completely understand, but I think it ended on a note where everyone’s ready to work together and really start making progress on these issues that we’ve only really talked about for far too long, and now we’re going to be moving into a period of action.”

Another community conversation was held Tuesday night at the LGBTQ Resource Center.

Much like Monday’s conversation, members of the community gathered in the house to meet with leaders to discuss issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community.

“I really wanted to hear students’ perspectives of how we as a campus can better support those who are a part of our LGBTQ community,” said Nicole Jardine, a representative of Graduate and Professional Student Government. “I know that UI has made a lot of really awesome strides, like the addition of preferred pronouns, but I really wanted to hear directly from students about what they need.”

Some of the issues that were talked about included gender-inclusive housing in the residence halls, the addition of a new Living Community for the LGBTQ community, and dedicated staffing in the center in order to provide resources for those who visit the house.

Other community conversations are planned for the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center and Latino Native American Cultural Center.

“We started the dialogue with your community, and I would like you to carry it deeper than just the people here this evening,” Harreld said. “There was good give-and-take, but clearly we have a lot to do, and now we have to get on with.”

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