Help create unity in 90s

By "Z" Ahmad

The third Unity in Diversity Week was just celebrated with numerous events sponsored by student organizations, university departments and other organizations. With the overall theme, “You Are One Of A Kind,” the unity week, as a multicultural programming week, set out to create awareness of and appreciation for the diversity that exists on campus. This was done through different events that dealt with “Roots,” “Relationships,” “Physical Differences,” “Lifestyles” and “Beliefs.” Promotional efforts and attendance at those events varied, and improvements can be made for next year’s unity week in terms of earlier promotions to get more involvement from students, faculty, staff and community members.

For the 1990s, what direction should we take for unity week? Should it continue to be the concerted effort of the institutions and individuals who are concerned about creating awareness of and appreciation for the diversity on campus? Or maybe, we should STOP creating awareness, and start ACTING on the awareness thus created. In a university setting like ours, the educational opportunities to educate about racism through awareness of and appreciation for diversity should not be limited to just a week, but inculcated in the curriculum, the classrooms and in activities sponsored by student organizations and university departments throughout the year.

The planning process of a multicultural programming week is a two-way street; it takes both the MINORITY and NON-MINORITY groups to cooperate in order to break away from the mental and physical barriers of racism and racial insensitivity. Only then can communications be enhanced among the members of the various groups on campus. We have been told time and time again about “institutional racism,” which repeatedly creates anger, mistrust and despair among us. What we need now is concrete efforts and suggestions on how to eliminate it, and not to keep reminding ourselves that it exists. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s “dream” will continue to be a dream if we don’t act on it. If his dream is your dream, then do something about it!

As we start planning for the 1990 unity week, the following is an overview of the planning process. Unity in Diversity Week is planned by the NIU Steering Committee that consists of administrators, students and interested individuals representing various groups on campus. Membership is purely voluntary, but attendance is very important to ensure that discussions and decisions include inputs from the members at every step of the planning stage. As “programmers,” the committee members should take responsibility for dividing the tasks among themselves.

To enhance the diversity of programs, we need people with different points of view and different experiences to give input and take leadership in sponsoring different events. Students who do not want to be on the Steering Committee can become active members of the Unity in Diversity Committee on the Campus Activities Board. The chairman for this committee is also the student co-chairman for the Steering Committee. If you are interested, please call Wendy Reid at 753-1590.

Last year, the Student Association earmarked a portion of student activities fees in the three midlevel accounts managed by CAB—namely the film, concert and speaker accounts. The funds were used by student organizations for the sole purpose of sponsoring activities for the week. CAB’s Unity in Diversity Committee is responsible for preparing, managing and proposing the use of these funds for the week’s activities. It is hoped that this kind of excellent support will be continued in the future.

On the topic of funds, the NIU Office of Corporate Relations coordinates all solicitation of donations and contributions from corporations, university departments and individuals for the unity week. This source of funds can be used to sponsor events, and pay the operating costs for the week, for example, Star ads and the printing of posters, flyers, brochures, etc.

ADVANCE PLANNING would help alleviate some of the problems faced by the Steering Committee this year. To incorporate input from students, planning should be done starting this semester and in the spring. Sponsors of the different activities must finalize their events by the dateline for submitting information in order to be included in the calendar of events. By summer, we can concentrate our efforts on preparing the promotional materials and promoting the events.

Please call Peggy Sullivan, the current co-chairman and dean of Professional Studies, at 753-6155, or Program Coordinator, Z Ahmad at 753-6707 if you are interested in helping to plan for Unity in Diversity Week 1990.

Editor’s note: Z Ahmad is the Unity in Diversity program coordinator and writes to encourage people to get involved in diversity awareness and next year’s Unity in Diversity week programming.