Sigma Chi forum held on cultural, racial awareness

By Claudia Curry

Sigma Chi fraternity held a discussion forum on racism and cultural pluralism Wednesday night in the Heritage Room of the Holmes Student Center.

Tracy Deis, Black Student Union president and Morenike Cheatom, Student Association minority relations adviser, spoke to a group of about 50 participants on racial issues which affect NIU students.

Deis said she believes there are two major reasons why there are racial tensions at NIU. “One reason is the high population of students from rural and suburban areas who weren’t faced before with dealing with people from other races.

“The other reason is a lack of education. Not just on this campus…but nationwide. Most racial incidents no matter where they occur are caused by either basic cruelty, lack of understanding or education,” Deis said.

The only way to fight racism is through keeping an open mind and offering a mode of cooperation, Deis said. “The learning process is one which you need other people and have to work with other people.

“I’ve heard a lot of things about why Sigma Chi is working on activities with us…They want to be on your good side. They want their pledge privileges back, but I hope the case is that the fraternity wanted to learn, and that is why they are so enthusiastic to participate,” she said.

Deis said she hopes that the fraternity feels that they made a mistake and want to educate themselves on cultural awareness and pluralism so that there will not be another incident such as the allegedly racist skit performed by five Sigma Chi fraternity members at a Delta Phi Epsilon philanthropy on Nov. 20, 1988.

Deis said her best advice to people who want to be comfortable around black people is to “just be yourself. Have concern about other people’s feelings, and people will accept you for what you are.”

Cheatom spoke to the group on a proposal she is working on to establish a section of classes under the general education curriculum that would emphasize the education of cultural awareness and pluralism.

“The proposal includes classes which concentrate on racism, sexism, women studies, handicapped studies,” Cheatom said. “The purpose is to educate students about groups of people in our society with unique differences, in order to aid in eliminating the ignorance that is responsible for discriminatory mindsets on this campus.”

Cheatom said that if approved, the program would take about one year to install into the regular class curriculum.

“So far, the response from students has been good. Right now we are signing petitions, talking to administrators and writing up the proposal. We are currently talking to faculty members concerning their feelings toward the proposal.”

Cheatom said the classes which the new section would be composed of are already offered to students but are not organized into a single section of requirement.

“We wouldn’t have to spend any money to teach new classes. We would have to budget for expanding class sections only,” she said.