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Feb. 28, 2013

Diversity of student body not extended to interactions


By Daniel Herda

When walking through the campus at Cleveland State University, one can notice that there are students from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. Whether American or international; Cleveland State is known for being one of the most diverse schools in the state, but at times, students — American or international — choose to self-segregate and hang out within their own groups.

Why is there far less social intermixing among students from diverse cultural backgrounds? Is it that we gravitate toward students from similar cultural backgrounds and comfort zones? Many students blame social learning from mass media.

“If mass media tells them that blacks are violent angry and aggressive, then they might steer away from black people they might perceive to be angry and aggressive,” said Joselyn Gibson, a student who is a double major in political science and communication. “If they tell them that white people are entitled and snotty and snooty, then they are going to stay away from that attitude.”

“We don’t want to get rid of these stereotypes because of the media — the media separated us in these groups,” said Ahmed Kadous, an accounting and finance student from Egypt. “If I get a picture of 9/11, what do you think? Arabs,” he added.

He believes that many international students want to interact with American students, but they don’t have the chance to because they feel as if Americans wouldn’t want to interact with them.

“I walked into an elevator crowded of maybe five Caucasians, one black, and everybody went to the other side of the elevator,” Alexandra Murray, a journalism student who once wore a hijab as a social experiment on campus for a class project, said. “It was so surprising to me.”

“People refer to ‘those people’ in big generalizations — ‘they do this, they do that, they stick to themselves’ while not realizing that they themselves are probably doing the same thing for many of the same reasons,” said Dr. Lisa Gaynier, director of the master’s program in Diversity Management, said. “This behavior is understandable until, or if they act with prejudice based on those stereotypes,” she explained.

“Discriminating against people based on these gross generalizations also known as stereotypes, is not OK.”

While interviewing students it was found that many use generalization to try to understand their interactions with members of other cultural groups.

“They are not taught English from childhood they struggle with English,” said Govind Pappu, a biology pre-medicine student.
He is from India and likes interacting with other cultures. He has many American and Albanian friends, but not as many Chinese friends.

“I do like them, it’s just how they grew up,” he said.
Jackie Lu is an accounting student at Cleveland State who thinks it’s possible that more students of certain cultural groups can be more inviting to others.

“I think it’s very interesting if a group has the same culture or the same feeling about the same thing because they can share something with this group,” Lu said. “But sometimes people find it’s very hard to share the feeling about themselves to others. I think we can invite some others to join.”

Despite the appearance of self-segregation on the campus, the university offers an environment and opportunity that encourages intercultural interactions and individual freedom that is rare in many parts of the world.

Dr. George Ray, director of the School of Communication, said that there are many reasons, whether incidental or strategic, that U.S. universities and colleges have been recruiting international students, and it’s to the extent that college and university campuses accept cultural diversity.

“There is less pressure felt to conform to the mainstream U.S. American culture,” said Dr. Ray, who teaches nonverbal, interracial and intercultural communication.
He also said that students are becoming increasingly aware that the campus is becoming diverse.

There are many events and activities organized outside the classroom environment that offer opportunities for intercultural interaction. For example, on Feb. 22, the African Student Association, in conjunction with The Black Studies Program presented “My Ancestors’ Roots” for celebration of Africa Day and Black History Month. Members of many different backgrounds attended. Dr. Barbara Hoffman, from the Deartment of Anthropology, was the facilitator of “How Do Africans Kiss,” a documentary followed by discussion on expressive culture and how the expression of love is viewed culturally.

“The Student Anthropology Association is another organization that invites a diversity of people to join and participate from all cultures, all creeds and all languages because that’s what anthropology is about — studying the diversity of the human being on this planet,” Dr. Hoffman said.

The Student Anthropology Association that promotes cross cultural understanding meets once a month, and students can contact them at (216) 687-9384. For more information, email Anthropology@csuohio.edu. On March 16, Black Studies will present “Essentially Ellington Regional High School Jazz and Band Festival” from 7-9 p.m. For more information, call (216) 687-3655.