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Common Ground group performs at third annual educational event on diversity

Students perform at the third annual Common Ground Skits, Dance, Myths and Dialogue in their attempt to end hate and ignorance on campus. Race and socio-economic backgrounds were two of the issues faced. (Photo by Haley Chouinard)

Inclusion Services and Programs presented the third annual Common Ground Skits, Dance, Myths, and Dialogue this past Tuesday, April 2, in the Commons Auditorium.

The Common Ground Inclusion and Diversity Training Program is a group of students and faculty members that are committed to providing a platform for people to talk about issues of difference. This group is open to all students who are interested in promoting inclusion and diversity on campus.

Common Ground hosts this event every year in hopes that it will give students an opportunity to start a dialogue about diversity.

Associate Dean of Students & Director of Inclusion Services and Programs Dr. Lusharon Wiley hosted this year’s event.

Members of Common Ground asked students to complete a survey as they came in. The survey questions focused on socio-economic backgrounds and attitudes toward people with different ethnicities and sexual orientations.

The night really got going when members of the faculty and staff performed a flash mob to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”

Following the flash mob, author Jack Beverly was introduced and read one of his short stories, “Learning Black.”

The story chronicled one of Beverly’s first encounters with African Americans, which led him to meeting accomplished jazz singer, Nancy Wilson.

“I was living in a small, all-white community in Kansas,” Beverly said. “We didn’t have any racial issues but we only had one race.”

The message of Beverly’s story was that he had learned as a young man that “black is only skin deep.”

A particularly heartwarming moment followed when Melody Smith, a fourth grade student, stood up and sang Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.” At one point, Melody forgot the lyrics to the song and members of the audience joined in and sang the rest of the song with her.

The evening became serious when a video made by members of Common Ground was shown.

The video opened with a moving song by Student Activities Office Specialist Patricia Hartley about stopping hate. The video explored a variety of tough issues including sexism, prejudice, ignorance and feeling different.

After the video, Dr. Wiley prompted the students in the audience to share their personal experiences with the topics addressed in the video. Many students opened up about their encounters with racism, sexism, and being treated differently because of sexual orientation.

The evening came to a close with the announcing of the survey results. The results proved effective in driving home the message of the night, which was that we all share common ground.

Freshman criminal justice major Lauren St. Simon, 18, felt that the event made her more aware of how universal discrimination is.

“I came here thinking that only African Americans were the ones being discriminated against,” St. Simon said. “But it opened my eyes that other races are being discriminated against. Like even by sexual orientation or people with disabilities.”

Patricia Hartley thought that the event was a success.

“I think that in general everything went very well,” Hartley said. “I think that we had a very good turnout especially compared to past years.”

Common Ground member and freshman pre-nursing major Chelsea Kendrick, 18, echoed those sentiments.

“I think it’s a great event and everyone should come out next year,” Kendrick said.

Haley Chouinard
Contributing Writer 

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