Attending ODI events is the first step to real social change

By Farah Bassyouni Oct 9, 2023

Since the beginning of the year, I have made an effort to try to attend as many ODI (Office of Diversity & Inclusion) and OME (Office of Multi Faith Engagement) events as I can. Many of these events are held during lunch and provide food which, in its own way, is a great motivator. Yet, outside of potlucks and lunches, a thought has arisen as I sit in the comfy chairs upstairs in Hansen or down in Evelyn: “where is everyone?” 

Now there are a plethora of reasons why participation is so scarce at these events, from having class, eating with friends, or even simply taking a much needed nap; students have a lot they can do with their time rather than attending school events. As a busy student myself, I do not seek to place blame or make accusations about doing these previously mentioned activities. In reality, the only reason that’s truly unacceptable in my mind would be to simply not care and I believe that many IWU students care a lot.  In fact, one of the biggest reasons I see low participation is that many students do not know about these events, or do not remember about them. But why might this be? This begs the question, what makes an ODI or OME event something to remember? 

The purpose of ODI might be in part a reaction to injustices, but it also is in itself an action. ODI and OME have offered students and staff chances to become involved in the constant stream of action that our school’s diverse environment requires. It can be easy to call for the message of diversity and equity during situations of oppression and inequality. Yet, we should not fight for equity only when there is immediate inequality. I think that many historically marginalized groups want to live in the world and not be forced to react to its exclusion. But how can we live in a world that might not understand us? We are more than our collective suffering but to what extent do we understand this? Do others? I believe that ODI & OME have taken great efforts to offer us chances to explore these questions, to uplift identity as something to be proud of, not ashamed. I am fascinated by the dichotomy of what you say vs. what you do. I have heard people and organizations say many things about diversity & inclusion. All over campus you can see stickers and phrases promising IWU’s residents that this campus is inclusive. ODI and OME have put much work in fulfilling these promises. 

In just the last week bias incidents have had such an effect that President Nugent released an email that calls on IWU to take action, actively participate and help in rebuilding bonds. I am fascinated to see how both IWU students and faculty go about doing these things. When APAC, SASA, BSU, SALSA, and Student Senate all release statements akin to saying they want to maintain a diverse, inclusive, and equitable space, how will their members go about fulfilling this? While participating in ODI & OME events is not the only way, it is not a way I think has been truly utilized. Diversity, inclusion, and equity are not one and done. They are not

just a solution to problems but rather a mindset of living. The events ODI has hosted around Latinx history month, race and accessibility, and acclimation to college do not just serve to educate but to help students discover that there is always more to the story. You can say you care about these issues but when do you care and what are you doing to show up? 

It should not just be on the historically marginalized to show up to these events. For many, these events are reminders of what we already know. Though that is to say, these events can reveal a lot of the unknown and  help us understand the experiences of others. But it’s equally important to see participation from the “privileged”, those who benefit from current institutions of power and for some, whose lives might be better off if they didn’t question these systems. ODI and OME offers a chance for you to learn about not just culture but identity for not only yourself but for the world you should want to live in. A world where inconsequential factors do not make up the existence of your identity. 

IWU is still a place empowered by the privileged and through a rechanneling of that power we might see changes in the actions IWU takes. I use privilege to define any person who has opportunity or power due to the same factors that take those same powers away from others. Diversity, inclusion, and equity are not just something to check off on a to-do list. The people it affects do not live to fulfill a quota. To attend an ODI and OME event is to align what you say to what you’re doing. It is to support both creating an inclusive world and inclusive people. It’s to remember that a fairer world is not created just through reaction but from understanding and reflection. It starts, as Bell Hooks says, with a “will to change.”

Related Post