Photo provided by Miranda Stephen
So much effort goes into promoting diversity across campus. Here at Mercer, we often discuss changing the world, making a difference in society and strengthening our ties to the international community. You see Facebook filters and hashtags that people use to promote that they are aware and supportive of efforts for diversity and understanding.
Yet, I do not believe that these efforts have truly reached some of my fellow Mercerians. To express this properly, I will share with you an incident that occurred at the Taste the World event held on March 30.
A call went out from the International Bears Association seeking students willing to participate in Taste the World by preparing a cultural dish to share with their fellow Mercerians.
The theme of the event was not only to take our fellow Mercerians on a culinary journey but also to promote dialogue about the cultural significance of these dishes to their respective cultures.
An international student at Mercer reached out to me based off our shared Middle Eastern heritage and invited me to prepare a traditional Arabic dish with him.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Middle Eastern cuisine, we are more than just hummus!
My anticipation and excitement for this event was quickly overshadowed by a number of fellow Mercer students who bounced from table to table expressing disgust over the appearance of some dishes, and then loudly warning others around them to avoid certain tables because “it was not good”.
As a student walked right past me openly expressing his disgust with his friends about the appearance of the dish we spent four hours preparing, I mentioned to him that I had prepared that dish.
He replied with “that’s just my consumer review.” I didn’t realize the human version of Yelp was a student at Mercer.
Another student expressed a look of disgust after taking one bite. She had to run and tell her friends of her experience over the flavour and to avoid the table if you didn’t want to get sick.
The behavior of these Mercer students can easily be compared to a toddler refusing to eat chicken unless it was in the form of a dinosaur-shaped nugget.
“Mercer University strives to be a Community of Respect where everyone is held in mutual high regard. Because every human being is created in the image of God, each person deserves to be treated with respect and civility” (Mercer University Student Handbook, 2016).
To contrast, it is my belief that this standard was not upheld that day in particular. Based on the expectations Mercer has for its students and the student behavior observed that day, I feel that more effort needs to be made to ensure that every Mercer student is meeting this standard.
We can no longer sit back and simply discuss cultural sensitivity, write research papers, partake in protests and marches, or show solidarity on social media for such topics. We need to actually demonstrate, apply and adopt the values of Mercer’s mission and standards.
Such values should not just be demonstrated in the classroom for a grade, these values must also be demonstrated on and off campus, and I sure hope beyond our borders as my fellow students participate in study abroad, Fulbright programs, service learning projects, the Peace Corps, and Mercer on Mission.
I urge you, my fellow Mercerians, when you have the opportunity to try something new and different, seize the moment and live a little!