Group Aims To Bridge Divides

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

A new initiative aimed at bringing together faculty and students to discuss diversity-related issues and concerns is off to an encouraging start, according to its participants.

The program, tentatively titled "Communicating Across Differences," held its first formal meeting last month at Vouté Hall. Over a dozen students chatted with Prof. Brinton Lykes (SOE) and Asst. Prof. Lisa Jackson (SOE), as well as several Housing administrators and staff, about the abundant mix of culture and ethnicity within the Boston College community.

"This was classic conversation, with a lot of casual and candid exchanges," said Associate Director of Housing Robert Jose, one of the program's originators. "It is exactly what the campus residence halls are all about."

The first "Communicating Across Differences" dinner was held last month.
Jose, Lykes and Jackson are members of Xocomil, a group of administrators and faculty which encourages efforts promoting cultural diversity throughout BC. While the "Communicating Across Differences" series operates on a modest scale for now, the participants believe it can play a role in enriching campus life, and the University as a whole.

"The program is a recognition of how important it is to have a space in which to talk about building bridges," said Lykes, the co-coordinator for Xocomil. "The conversation may include a small number of people, but if enough of those conversations take place throughout the University, then you can start to see an impact."

The University has long sought to foster faculty-student interaction outside the classroom, the program organizers note, and the discussion series stems in part from that goal. Another major influence, they added, is the growing interest among both faculty and students in exploring the nature of diversity.

"In our meetings, we asked ourselves if Xocomil could have a more direct impact on student life," Jose said. "As Housing sponsors a number of programs with a multicultural focus, we thought 'Communicating Across Differences' would be a good way to, first of all, bring faculty and students together informally, and second, to engage each other in conversation about race and culture."

Participants at the inaugural meeting reflected on the recent University discussion over diversity issues, then talked about campus events and other initiatives that serve to inspire appreciation of other cultures. Students from a multicultural floor at Voute Hall also shared some of their experiences and impressions.

"In some ways I was pleasantly surprised by the level of discussion," Jackson said. "There was an airing of concerns, but the emphasis was more on 'What do we do to make things better?' The tenor of the discussion was a pro-active one."

Organizers said the series will resume in the fall and most likely take place on a monthly basis.

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