Student met in the Multimedia room of the BPSC Oct. 1 to listen to the first Brave Space talk of the fall semester, openly talking about stereotypes within education systems.
The event was hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) and presented by Student Ambassadors Dia Conerly, a sophomore animal science major from Dallas, and Vanessa Huynh, a senior food and nutrition dietetics major from Plano.
“I had this [discussion] with my youth group back home, and we talked about how we think this is important,” Conerly said. “Just from experience, being discriminated against by a teacher just needs to be talked about.”
The discussion was open for all students to learn about the history of stereotypes, how they affect different types of people and ways that they can spread awareness and be more mindful of others.
“I thought that was a great topic because we are students within the education system and we don’t realize these things unless someone speaks up about it,” Huynh said.
Students of all ethnic groups received the talk. The purpose of OMA is to create a campus that is safe and welcome to everyone. Therefore, by reaching out to all kinds of people, they believe this is how they can spread awareness and help students and teachers see past these stereotypes. OMA hopes to make an impact that goes beyond the four walls of any room these Brave Space discussions are held.
“The more people that know, the more awareness that can be spread,” Conerly said. “Educating and spreading awareness is very important and knowing that people came out to learn about this topic just shows that it’s an issue.”
Spreading awareness and learning from past prejudices was one of the main topics addressed. The purpose of the seminar was for people to learn from their mistakes.
“They are able to correct themselves or correct other people just to make sure that they don’t make that mistake again, so it won’t affect them in the future,” Huynh said. “I hope that people take what they learn and implement it in their interactions with other people, even a small change is still a big deal.”
Students participated in activities that allowed them to voice stereotypes they have witnessed or fell victim to openly with the audience. One student opened up about a teacher mispronouncing her name and asking her if she could be called by something “easier” to pronounce.
“Your name is just a big part of your identity, and it’s disrespectful to want to ‘change it’ out of convenience,” the student said.
To end the discussion, students broke into small groups to intimately discuss ways in which stereotypes can be avoided in the classroom and on campus through a handout with various statements.
Responding to one statement, freshman psychology major and Austin-native Seth Arizola, opened up about a situation he witnessed within the classroom, and what he and other students did to help shine light on the situation.
“We had Chinese exchange students, and they were speaking amongst themselves,” Arizola said. “[Our teacher] was not happy that they were speaking Chinese and [said] that they should speak English. [She did this] in the middle of the class while everybody else was talking, but she was specifically going after them. We went to the office [about this and learned that] there is a class teachers can take when situations like this happen [to learn] how to respect each culture.”
The Office of Multicultural Affairs is open to everyone, despite what some students may initially think.
“A lot [of people] think ‘multicultural’ means minorities instead of minorities and majorities, so I think that’s important to know about the OMA,” said Huynh.
“We accept everyone. We want everyone to come because these topics could be used throughout the whole spectrum,” said Conerly.