TKE and Black Student leadership plan future diversity dialogue

By Ian Tancun

DeKALB — Black student leadership and members of Tau Kappa Epsilon met Tuesday to plan for their upcoming Diversity Dialogue: Re-imagined event. 

The meeting was planned so students could discuss the logistical aspects associated with planning the upcoming event, which is being held 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Altgeld Auditorium. The meeting was part of an ongoing dialogue between TKE and black student leadership in the aftermath of a video posted to social media April 8 of a man using racial slurs in front of the TKE house.

TKE President Matt Sheets said he thinks the meeting was productive and the diversity event could have a positive influence on the community.

“When the incident occurred, it was obviously a pretty negative thing,” Sheets said. “I want to turn this from something that was pretty negative into something that we can build our community around — turn a negative into a positive.”

Sheets said while TKE is ethnically diverse, it is important to understand what others may go through on a daily basis. He hopes the diversity dialogue will help educate NIU community members.

“I think it’s important for people to understand that racism wasn’t something that happened 40, 50 years ago — it’s still going on right now, and we can’t stand for that anymore,” Sheets said. “Everyone, instead of just sitting by and watching other people take action … can do something in their lives every single day to stop racism.”

Kendra Wilkinson, director of academics and education for the Black Student Union, said she’s encouraged by the progress that was made in Tuesday’s meeting and in the ongoing dialogues with TKE. She said both sides have taken steps to be more involved with each other’s communities recently.

“We understand that even though we’re ignorant and sometimes we don’t know a lot about what happens in each community, that does not mean that we have to stay that way,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said this event is important because students will be leading the diversity dialogue for the first time — not administrators.

“I hope that anybody that comes to the event … [is] open-minded about the work that needs to be done,” Wilkinson said. “It’s bigger than individual mindsets; it’s bigger than individual experiences. We all have to get past this mode of self-segregation and be a little bit more intersectional.”

Wilkinson acknowledged that many people are still processing the video incident. However, the main takeaway she hopes to see as a result of the issue is fostering an environment of critical thinking and compassion.

A crucial part of progress being made is having ongoing conversations, Wilkinson said. She hopes people come to the event, for which food will be provided, and lend their voices — a sentiment echoed by Sheets.

“I just want everyone to come out and support. The more faces that are there, the better,” Sheets said. “We want to hear everyone’s stories, and we want to answer questions; we want to hear people … we just want to make a positive impact.”