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DOC continues to unify voices of student organizations

September 16, 2010

Following its inception last spring, the newly founded Diversity Organization Coalition (DOC) has kicked off the new semester with a running start by amplifying the voice of many campus organizations.

Thus far, the DOC, which was organized by Falcon Programs, encompasses the Asian American Student Association, Black Student Union, Ethnic Studies Program, Falcon Programs, Gay Straight Alliance, International Student Association, Journey House, Jewish Student Organization, Rise Up For Women’s Rights, Sisters and Brothers of Islam, Student Senate and the Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

This new coalition has been set forth to unify a broader set of student diversity organizations. DOC will therefore establish a cohesive force for equity, diversity and inclusion, according to its founder and the University’s sociocultural coordinator, Ashley Olson.

“Our hope is to make sure all organizations have a voice and to remain on the radar,” said Aaron Bergman, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Allied Falcon Programmer.

The DOC is carrying on the work of two past organizations, the Diversity Awareness Committee (DAC) and the Community Action Theater Troupe (CATT). The DAC had funded these organizations and had contributed to Unity in the Community. While CATT acted as an education forum for the rest of the community by going to schools and holding workshops. Neither committee however, were established to serve as a unified coalition. The DOC supplements for what these past organizations did separately, according to the co-diversity programmer for Falcon Programs, Nikki Shonoiki.

Prior to its creation, it had been hard for the various student organizations to keep in touch. As a previous solution, they would designate members to sit in on each others meetings. It was an effort that would often disintegrate as the year went on, according to Jessica Yang, the co-President of the Asian American Student Association (AASA).

“The DOC is a network for all of us to get together and work towards one goal. That goal is to spread awareness about diversity here on campus,” said the Public Relations Representative for AASA, Hleeda Her.

Last spring, UW-River Falls released the results of the Campus Climate Survey, which gave a greater justification to have a coalition, according to Shonoiki.

According to the survey, over one third of those who took it and indicated that they were a part of a racial or sexual minority had felt harassed at one point while attending UWRF. It also revealed that 44 percent of those who identified themselves a part of a sexual minority contemplated leaving the University, as did 56 percent of those who classified themselves as part of a racial minority. Yang said the Coalition will further “allow incoming students who are a minority to feel included. As a diverse group we will be able to share stories and open up about issues like harassment. At times, the University isn’t all that inclusive.” Olson agrees in that the survey’s data has helped inform new discussions, as it serves as a tangible example concerning diverse issues. The Campus Climate Survey, along with the DOC, amplifies common themes,allowing them to be better understood.

The DOC has contributed to the individual groups advisory council because “it broadens the ways we can collaborate as staff members,” Olson said. “I have found that students are more comfortable sharing their experiences with an advisor. We are able to notice trends and issues arising. As a collective there is a larger voice.”

Chief Diversity Officer Andriel Dees acknowledges the larger voice as one that will bring forth a more inclusive community.

“The goal is to be more inclusive of everybody, not exclusive,” Dees said. “It gives students a chance to connect and educate the community on a large spectrum of perspectives.

“We are a small campus, but gaps still need to be bridged so we can learn more about each other,” Shonoiki said.

The name may stir some people away, but the DOC is intended for everybody, not just minorities. It’s about getting involved on an inclusive campus and becoming more aware of diversity, she said.

“ Students don’t have a single identity,” Olson said. “The Coalition is there to serve multiple identities. It will be a better service for those issues. It gets people thinking on how they will appear to the world in the most inclusive way possible.”

Student Life, with contributions from DOC, has commenced to produce a monthly newsletter that will further the efforts of equity, diversity and inclusion at UWRF. The newsletter can be found online at: www.uwrf.edu/Sociocultural/Newsletters.cfm.

The DOC meets Monday evenings from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. In the Eau Galle River Room located in the University Center. For those who have further questions, they are encouraged to e-mail Ashley Olson at ashley.e.olson@uwrf.edu.