Bahai News - Cramped schedule causes diversity conferences to overlap

Cramped schedule causes diversity conferences to overlap

By Melanie Mensch
September 17, 2001

It could have been the duel of the diversity events.

Instead, the two university forums, which occupy the same weekend, did what diversity does best - champion their differences and support their unified cause.

Both the 14th-annual Cultural Diversity Retreat and the Beyond Racism conference are this weekend, a conflict for interested students who unable to attend both because of time or money.

A result of cramped university scheduling, the two events accidentally overlap each other. Usually the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cultural Retreat occurs in October, but this weekend offered no competition with home football games.

"We live under the Nebraska football schedule," said Chuck van Rossum, assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs and assistant director of the minority assistance program. "This was the only weekend available. If we waited, it would be too late. Students' interests would be elsewhere like finals or fall break."

UNL law professor Brian Lepard said the university's Baha'i Association planned the Beyond Racism conference last spring, getting the university's green light for this weekend, also.

"We assumed there wouldn't be any conflict," he said. "It's unfortunate, but now the students have the benefit of choice."

Sponsored by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the UNL Cultural Diversity Retreat Sept. 22-23 is an overnight event at Camp Carol Joy Holling in Ashland. Open to current UNL students, faculty and staff, the retreat provides a chance "to get away from campus," van Rossum said.

"It's an opportunity to talk about what's happening on campus in the lives of students, to talk about making a difference from their own experience," he said.

The cost is $10. Transportation, food, lodging and a free T-shirt are included. By last Friday, 27 people had registered, but van Rossum said the deadline was extended through Monday or Tuesday in case more wanted to sign up.

Christa Balderson, a senior Spanish major, called the conflict "unfortunate."

"It forces students to choose," she said. "It's really important for students to do something of this nature. It's a good chance to meet people and get a different perspective."

Balderson said although she would like to go to both diversity events, she had already signed up for the cultural retreat.

"We would like students to do both," said van Rossum. "Either of them are worthy and reach the same goals."

For more Lincoln-bound students, the Beyond Racism conference provides diversity discussion without the long-term commitment. Held in the Nebraska Union's Centennial Room Sept. 21-23, the conference offers speakers and workshops beginning at 7 p.m. Friday.

Friday is a panel discussion between university officials, students and community leaders. On Saturday, students can learn dances from around the globe at the multicultural dance at 7 p.m.

"This conference, of course, was scheduled before the horrific national and world tragedy that occurred this week," said Lepard, the organization's adviser. "Despite the grief we are all experiencing, it provides an opportunity for all members of the university community to move forward undeterred, with renewed determination to overcome racial prejudices and animosities of all kinds and to build interracial understanding."

The cost is $20 for students and $40 for UNL faculty and staff. Participants can choose to attend portions of the weekend conference at half-day rates - students $5 and faculty $10.

For additional information, call (402) 472-2179 for the Beyond Racism conference or (402) 472-3755 for the UNL Cultural Retreat.

©Copyright 2001, Daily Nebraskan

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