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Students Reflect On MLK: ‘Diversity Is More Than Race’

Nearly 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, some say sexual orientation, gender and economic status need to be included in discussions about diversity.

students at unity summit

Photo: Will Healey

IU students discuss their different experiences at the "Unity Summit" on Martin Luther King Day.

More than 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech and nearly 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went into effect, Hoosiers say we need to start reaching beyond race when promoting diversity.

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff gathered in Indiana University’s Alumni Hall for the 9th annual Unity Summit today.

The event uses group discussions to promote diversity, awareness and cultural understanding.

“This is the type of activity [King] would have loved to have been involved in or would love to see take place,” Eric Love, Director of the Office of Diversity Education at IU, says. “It’s an opportunity for people from different parts of the world, different cultures, different ethnicities, different religions, different sexual orientations to come together, interact, share experiences, talk about their life stories and bond with each other in a short period of time.”

While many of the event’s discussions included issues relating to race, IU sophomore Marisa Miller says diversity is about more than that.

“One thing we do need to work on is to understand the fact that diversity implies more than just race,” she says. “It implies sexuality, religion, and I think in our society today we need to open up our eyes more and really accept others that are different from us.  Not just on the outside, but on the inside as well.”

During the discussions, students expressed mixed thoughts about the level of diversity at IU.

“Not everybody believes that IU’s doing a great job, but some people do believe they’re doing a great job, so some of us can educate others on the different programs that they don’t know about,” Katrina Overby, a third-year PhD student and President of the Black Graduate Student Association, said.

Increasing diversity is a stated goal of the IU administration.

In a November 2013 letter, President McRobbie said “the university must continue to do more to attract talented minority students to our campuses.”

Six percent of IU’s student body is Asian, 4 percent are African American and 4 percent are Hispanic.

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