The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) at UD is planning to advance itself in a way that better showcases an identity advocating for the needs of all students.
In the past, the office targeted students with a minority background. Starting off with names like The Center for Afro-American Affairs and Multicultural Student Association, students who did not consider themselves to be in the minority paid little attention to the office.
“I know of OMA but I don’t really know what it is at the same time,” first-year Anna Zahner said. “I know that it’s where I see my black friends going but I’m usually hesitant to go there.”
With a goal of making it clear that all students are welcome, the office wants to paint a bigger picture of its future goals by crafting a new mission statement. This includes a name change that better represents the work that the office is doing on campus.
“It’s a myth and a miscommunication that all students are not welcomed here,” said Daria Graham, the associate dean and executive director of OMA. “It’s never been the case.”
According to Graham, the name of the office has created a false sense that the minority student population is the only population the office represents.
The office also is hoping to work with more classrooms. They’ve historically partnered with certain campus staff, like the Human Rights Center, but the office wants to reach out to more organizations and faculty. The goal is to teach students about possible encounters with individuals of a different race on campus.
“We hope to teach the students about inclusion and equity,” Graham said. “We live in a global society where we have to learn the skills to compete and love, and it’s not always easy to understand what another person has been through.”
According to Graham, teaching social justice issues will advance students’ knowledge and prepare them to work in a society where diversity and inclusion are sometimes pushed to the side. The heads of this new policy plan to teach students in a way that relates to their field of study. For this reason, they are beginning to structure themselves into classrooms because that is where students will be able to learn best.
“We plan to have mini modules that demonstrate encounters between racial groups alongside the Alcohol EDU and Sexual Assault Prevention for Undergraduates (SAPU) modules for freshman,” Graham said.
While it is already required for incoming first years to watch demonstrations on matters related to subjects like alcohol abuse, it will now be required for students to learn about encounters with other people, especially those of a different race or ethnicity. For Graham, these are a set of skills and knowledge that everyone should possess in order to be successful in the real world.
“We want to include any and all students,” Graham said. “We are aware that we are a very welcoming office to those who come, but we want to make that clear to everyone else as well.”
OMA holds the goal of showcasing itself in the near future to all cultures on campus. Simultaneously, the office wants to teach about social issues in an effective way so that it is no longer an ignored topic.