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A simple lesson

By Anthony C. Braza
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 9, 1998
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UA community members took a step toward "unlearning racism" and learning more about each other yesterday in a day-long seminar.

About 185 hand-picked students and faculty attended a diversity workshop to share experiences and participate in question and answer sessions.

Psychology freshman Julie Heffernan, a Korean-American, said the University of Arizona is not as culturally well-rounded as she had anticipated.

"I find that this university is predominantly white and I thought it was going to be more diversified," Heffernan said.

She said the program is good "because it makes more people aware."

The workshop was organized by the Tucson YWCA and cosponsored by the UA President's Office and the Office of Vice President for Campus Life. The YWCA plans to hold two similar workshops for City of Tucson officials and administrators of the four local school districts.

UA President Peter Likins, a workshop participant, said the program benefits the university by educating people on the cultural diversity important to college life.

"We need to build a strong sense of community," Likins said. "It has to be an inclusive and diverse community that works for everyone."

Likins said the workshop was intended to be the start of an ongoing effort.

"This is not a quick process," he said. "Cultures do not change in three years."

Nura Dualeh, workshop steering committee chairwoman, said the program is an example of where the UA wants to head with multicultural discussions.

"The commitment people made with their time is a really strong indication that people are willing to take the time out to talk about anti-racism and diversity in general," she said.

Dualeh said selected faculty, administrators and the steering committee chose participants based on their on-campus roles.

"We wanted a mix by function - administration, staff, faculty and students," she said. "We looked for people that would go back to their departments and feel comfortable sharing the information and apply what they learned."

The seminar featured the 90-minute documentary, "Color of Fear," by Lee Mun Wah of StirFry Seminars and Consulting.

Lee said he picked his corporation's unusual name for a reason.

"I chose 'StirFry' because with that food, no one flavor tries to dominate, which is how life should be," Lee said.

The 1994 film covered two days of discussions about racism between eight men of different ethnic backgrounds. Lee, who created and produced the film, said he had very specific reasons for its development.

"All I want is for Americans to look at what they put in the diversity pamphlets, and look at how many of them (points) are really in practice," Lee said. "We are good at honoring diversity in America, but we aren't good at practicing it."

Cheryl Neal, an African-American library employee, said she hoped the program will help change attitudes on campus.

"People of color have been talking about problems they have and this may help address the basic issues," Neal said. "I hope the majority of the community, the white people, become advocates and realize what things have been occurring."

Anthony C. Braza can be reached via e-mail at Anthony.C.Braza@wildcat.arizona.edu.