Diversity Council initiatives leave students in the dark
Henri Robbins | Staff Writer
While the school is pushing to be more culturally inclusive, they haven’t reached out to the demographic that would be directly impacted — students.
Superintendent Jonathan Cooper recently relaunched Mason’s community-based Diversity Council at a meeting on the night of October 22. The council was created to promote diversity and understanding within the city. At this particular meeting, diversity awareness, initiatives, and teacher training were discussed, and while teachers, administrators, and community members attended, no current high school students were invited to the meeting.
Mason’s Diversity Council met on October 22 to discuss the promotion and integration of diversity initiatives within the district.
Many clubs, such as Mason Inclusion Club (MIC), are based around involving students and creating understanding for people of different backgrounds and cultures. MIC board member Kennedy Hurks is glad to see administration working to improve the school environment, but said the school could be doing more to involve students in their initiatives, and has seen little actual change from them.
“Honestly, they talk a lot about it, but as far as doing things, they don’t have much right now,” Hurks said. “They say how they’re doing a lot of mandatory teacher diversity training, so that’s something that’s happening, but as far as getting students in diversity, it’s my club’s job to promote diversity, so they leave it to us to promote it to other students.”
Junior Torie Postell said she would like to see more discourse between teachers and the student body since students will be the most affected by the changes that are made.
“I feel like talking to students and getting their opinions on topics of diversity would help teachers more than having adults talk about it,” Postell said. “You’re trying to impact the student’s life. You can’t talk about students and not involve them.”
The Diversity Council is primarily focused on involving teachers and administration through training and open discussion. Tommie Lewis, a council member and a primary speaker at the meeting, said he has seen great change already and that the people involved are all enthusiastic about creating a better environment.
Teachers, administrators, and Mason community members collaborated to put together ideas aimed at promoting diversity cultural awareness across the district’s schools and community.
“I see a deeper commitment to really preparing our young people for tomorrow,” Lewis said. “I’ve also seen where there is some discomfort that change is happening, and everyone is not open to change, but that discomfort, in our mind, is growth, and I so see that those who are very accustomed to the Mason of 20, 30, 40 years ago are having to confront a new reality of growth with the community.”
Ian Orr, a parent and member of the Diversity Council, is hopeful for the future. Although there may be apprehension among older people, Orr said, there is a push from younger people to be more accepting and understanding.
“My son’s best friend, his parents are immigrants from China, they speak very little English, but they are best friends,” Orr said. “They are intentional about cultivating a diverse set of friends, they are intentional about the language they use when talking about not only their friends but the things they see on TV, the conversations they hear adults have. They have corrected adults from saying those words that hurt and harm. If they grow up and this just becomes a part of who they are and how they speak, then how much further down the road will we be in this conversation when they’re not even thinking it?”
Even with the changes that are happening, many students in the school regularly face adversity. Junior Aadi Pallerla said he often is the butt of jokes from his friends, and even though he sees them in good humor, he would like to see change.
“It hasn’t been anything serious, just your usual Indian joke, stuff about curry,” Pallerla said. “It hasn’t been anything where I felt like they’ve been demeaning me about it. It’s just in a joking sense among friends, it hasn’t been anything that makes me feel bad as a person. It’s just a part of the culture now. I’m hoping that with everything that’s going on right now, people will become more accepting of others. The one thing I hear is ‘I don’t see color,’ but the truth is you should see color and respect the color.”
In light of recent events, both within Mason and across the country, Postell said she is glad to see change, but is not happy about what had to happen for that change.
“Since there’s a lot of negativity within the media and politics, and with what’s happened at our school with racism and sexism, this is helping teachers understand that this needs to be discussed,” Postell said. “It’s kind of bad to think that we needed a negative to start looking at the positives of everything, but that’s just my view of it. There’s going to be backlash with everything you do, but there’s no downside to at least trying to make a difference.”
The student body is where the real responsibilities lie, according to Hurks. She feels that this upcoming generation has the power and awareness to make a change, and hopes to see a new culture form in Mason.
“I guess, in the end, I just want more people to be open-minded,” Hurks said. “The world is changing, we’re having more women in power, we’re having more people of color, we’re having Aftab Pureval running for Congress. I think that people have to get with the program now. I just want people to see other people’s experiences, and instead of rejecting them, try to learn from them, and overall, we’ll become a better student body when we can understand someone who doesn’t look like us.”
Photos by Henri Robbins.