The “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville this August sent shockwaves through the United States.

Miami University’s Office of Diversity Affairs and Student Counseling Service collaborated to give students a space to share their feelings in the wake of events such as those in Charlottesville. Monday evening, Sept. 18, around 25 undergraduate and graduate students gathered in the John E. Dolibois room in the Shriver Center for “Understanding Cultural & Racial Trauma.”

“Being a support service to students, we want to let them know we’re aware of what’s going on,” said Julian Oliver, the ODA’s assistant director of diversity affairs.

The event featured a discussion of how minority students feel affected by racially charged events in the news.

“The purpose was to really make it impactful for anyone who attended,” said Oliver.

The program began with Lauren Toben of the Student Counseling Service giving a presentation on the reality of racial trauma, mental and physical stress induced by racism and discrimination against people of color.  

Students spoke out about their experiences with discrimination on campus. One student described having been called a racial slur during her first week of classes.

Participants also discussed the frequent shootings of black Americans by white police officers. Students said they are no longer surprised when another story breaks about similar white-on-black violence.

For Kelly Kimple, director for the ODA, putting together the program was a matter of anticipating a need after the summer’s events, including the proposed travel ban and transgender military ban in addition to the events in Charlottesville.

“After all these things were going on, we knew our students were gonna come back,” said Kimple.  “We were hoping this would bring out students to be able to know we have staff and faculty that are here to support [them] through this time that we’re living through.”

First-year psychology major Christian Contessa felt the program would be an opportunity to have discussions that might not be easy to participate in on campus otherwise.

“Especially on a predominantly white campus, it’s sometimes difficult to have these conversations,” Contessa said. “I think it’s really good that Miami is having these conversations, and I’m glad that we’re taking these first steps.”

Contessa’s feelings were reciprocated by most attendees and organizers of the program.

“I think we’re in a climate where everything is so extremely partisan, so it’s nice to see that we could have some kind of space to just start to communicate and to share feelings,” said Fred Shueh, coordinator of International Student Services for the counseling department.

Shueh looks forward to more spaces like this program to allow students to open up and communicate.

“We’re all human beings, and we have a lot in common,” Shueh said. “I hope people can find ways to start conversation to really see all the things that we share.”

gormanwm@miamioh.edu

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