Madonna U. celebrates diversity
College's multicultural office presents events, holds meetings to raise awareness on campus.
By Ursula Watson / The Detroit News
Velvet S. McNeil / The Detroit News
LIVONIA -- Madonna University students last week took a break between classes and took advantage of free food and music at a diversity event celebrating Latino Heritage Month sponsored by the university's Office of Multicultural Affairs last week.
Each year, the university has academic-themed campaigns like this year's "Embracing Diversity for A Dynamic Community." The multicultural office also has monthly meetings called Brown Bag Discussion Group on Racism and Diversity that draw faculty and staff from other colleges and universities around the state.
Latino Heritage Month began Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15.
Leah Hubert, 21, was enjoying some food and music played by Steve Jarosz and Friends as she sat in Take Five, the university's student lounge.
Hubert, a psychology sophomore from Livonia, said she was coming out of class and smelled the food and heard the music and decided to have lunch.
When asked about recent reports about racial comments against African-Americans made by some residents attending an August meeting regarding a 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenter coming to Livonia, Hubert said she sees such events as a learning experience.
She said that such incidents like the meeting and cultural events at school have opened her eyes and exposed her to new experiences.
"I came here from Romeo where there were two African-American families living in there when I was growing up," Hubert said.
Events sponsored by the multicultural office predates the Livonia controversy by six years, said Ozzie Rivera, director of multicultural affairs.
Rivera said the yearly diversity campaign was prompted by then-President Bill Clinton who asked universities across the nation to encourage open discourse regarding racism and diversity. The discussion at Madonna was welcomed so much by faculty and staff that it continued and expanded.
It includes speakers, book club discussions and a theater component.
Sicillia Ellison, 20, said the food was the big draw for her while she was studying in between classes.
A nursing sophomore from Harper Woods, Ellison said she thinks diversity events are a way to bring people together.
Jenna Kirby, 19, was chatting with Ellison, who she met this semester in a chemistry class.
Kirby, a criminal justice sophomore and Livonia resident, said diversity events allow the student body to become familiar with the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
"Not a lot of people know about it," she said.
"While growing up, I was never taught prejudice and bias," Kirby said. "My dad hates Wal-Mart all together and not just because it's coming to Livonia."
The Office of Multicultural Affairs is also raising awareness about a campaign by Lansing-based One United Michigan, which is against the California Amendment to end affirmative action, which will hit Michigan ballots November 2006.
Rivera said he is thankful to the Madonna University administration for allowing open discussions on race and diversity, which he says are necessary.
He said the office and its events are open to all.
"I have had white students come to the office and say they didn't think white people could come to multicultural events," Rivera said.
He points out that most the members of the Brown Bag Discussions are white.
Rivera added that all people regardless of race have to feel free to come and talk about race and diversity in order to make a change.
"Some people think such discussions are only talked about among people of color," he said. "When we look at multiculturalism and diversity, the discussion has to include white people -- all people."
You can reach Ursula Watson at (734) 462-2094 or [log in to unmask]