Students voices add drama
to diversity program
By Charlotte Crystal
spotlight fell first upon Anna McCrerey, a pretty, blond-haired
woman who says she never leaves the house without putting on her
mascara and likes to shop for clothes. She doesnt fit the
stereotype of a tough lesbian who sports a crew cut and dresses
in T-shirts and jeans.
the heterosexual assumptions I find most difficult and challenging
at U.Va., said McCrerey, a fourth-year student in religious
studies and womens studies. I cant always speak
difficulty of always speaking up, and the need for sensitivity
and tolerance from others, were among the common threads that
bound the student and faculty speakers who shared their experiences
in Different Voices, Common Threads. The program,
which examines issues of diversity, was offered for the first
time this year as part of the first-year students orientation
to the University. Small group discussions followed the presentations
on Aug. 26.
program was developed by the Office
of the Dean of Students in response to two racial incidents
that occurred at U.Va. during the past school year. One involved
a Halloween costume party at a fraternity last fall when three
white students dressed in blackface. The second occurred in February,
when Daisy Lundy, a student of Korean and African-American heritage
who was then a candidate for president of the Student Council,
reported being the victim of a racially motivated attack on Grounds.
goals of the program were five-fold, according to Tabitha Enoch,
director of the Office
of Orientation and New Student Programs and chair of the organizing
committee. They included ensuring that first-year students: gain
a broad understanding of the meaning of diversity; recognize that
an appreciation of diversity is important in developing a cohesive
community; learn to respect others who are different; understand
key aspects of University and Virginia history as they relate
to diversity today; and expand their comfort zones, identify needed
changes at U.Va. and take steps to make the needed changes.
program opened with a slide show illustrating U.Va. and Virginia
history narrated by Jacintha Tabalujan, a third-year student in
architecture, and Spanish professor David Gies.
students, most of whom were born only 18 years ago, in 1985, watched
silently as history unfolded before them in the darkened hall.
The chronology ranged from the first U.Va. class in 1825, which
consisted of 40 students, all white males, to the establishment
of the Office of Afro-American [now African-American] Affairs
and the hiring of two new assistant deans in 1998-99 to help with
Asian and Hispanic affairs.
the slide show, the speakers representing the different
voices took their seats on the stage, which was bathed in
darkness. One by one, the speakers stood and were captured in
of the most dramatic presentations came when Justin Steele, a
fourth-year student in chemical engineering, stood and said: Fk
you, nr. There was shocked silence and a nervous
titter in the audience as he paused, then explained that a carload
of kids had pulled up and hurled that expletive at him in his
second year as he walked home late one
night after studying in the library for exams.
would you feel? he asked the audience. How would you
whose mother is white and whose father is black, quoted Malcolm
X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in urging the students to work
for racial justice.
student, Rebeen Pasha, a fourth-year student in interdisciplinary
studies focusing on international health policy, grew up in northern
Iraq and saw his father murdered before his eyes.
helped organize Children of War, a powerful presentation
by U.Va. students who had experienced war firsthand. The success
of that initiative inspired Pasha to seek other areas where he
thought he could make a contribution. We have a responsibility
to educate each other and learn from each other and a responsibility
to carry on this tradition.