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Culture Fest and raising awareness of underrepresentation at SU

The multicultural alliance hosted culture fest in the wicomico room to celebrate the diverse cultures on campus, and to spread awareness of their underrepresentation on Friday, Sept. 16, 2021.

When the Director of Multicultural Student Services Vaughn White III retired in December of 2019, the future of multicultural student organizations on Salisbury’s campus was up in the air.

White had served as the director of multicultural student services for 30 years, and at the end of his term there was no one to take his place.

At the same time, the discovery of racially motivated vandalism on campus last November led to a reorganization of the diversity office and president’s cabinet. This led to further delays in finding a suitable replacement.

After more than a year of systemic hold ups and no director in sight, the leaders of Salisbury’s multicultural alliance began planning an event to bring awareness to their under-funded clubs.

The president of the organization of Latin American Students Ginger Danser-Mena originated the idea for a culture fest on the campus of Salisbury University.

“I wanted to foster community relations across campus,” Danser-Mena said.

“[Myself] and the other multicultural organizations on campus felt the University didn’t give us as much of a push to the community as the other ... organizations — you know, even though we are small, we deserve visibility too.”

Danser-Mena began working with student organization leaders, Chief Diversity Officer Joan Williams and the MSS program coordinator Carolyn Frisby, to put the culture fest into action. What started as an eight club activities fair, turned into a celebration complete with live music, catered food, information booths, door prizes, dancing and more.

Danser-Mena was impressed by the turn out at the event on Friday and she’s taking it as a promising sign of things to come for the multicultural alliance.

“I just had it in my heart that it was gonna happen, and [we] did it,” Danser-Mena said.

The president of the NAACP Dorien Rogers shares Danser-Mena’s sentiments as he looks to the future.

“This is just the beginning, there is so much more advocacy to be done,” Rogers said. “This is the culture people don’t talk about at SU.”

Rogers stressed that the event was important for bringing visibility to these under-represented campus groups and for encouraging non-minority identifying students to get involved too.

“Students need to know that they have an outlet to go to, and they need to know how they can get involved,” Rogers said. “They need to know about our weekly meetings, about our strategic plans. Many white students are afraid to join these clubs, but [we’re] all about intersectionality … many of the founders of the NAACP were White.”

Rogers emphasized that the organization of the event brought awareness to the lack of action by the University towards filling White’s position in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and president’s cabinet. He believes that while the event was a success, there is a “dark road'' ahead for the multicultural alliance in getting the representation they deserve.

“If ODI is not taking us forward, what is it,” Rogers said. “A director of multicultural services needs to be put in place.”

As of September, only one of seven positions in the ODI is filled. Early next month the NAACP plans to broadcast its plan to the campus community to get a director of multicultural student services in place. Location is to be announced.


Gillian Van Ditta Staff writter Featured photo courtesy of Gillian Van Ditta

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