Mercer University’s Student Government Association and Minority Affairs hosted a diversity panel on April 12.
The panel consisted of a group of students from African, African American, European, Caucasian, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Native American and Caribbean descent.
Senior Anthony McMillan presented the idea in hopes of allowing students to learn about different cultures, ethnicities and religions.
“It’s a very diverse campus, and it’s important for us to know why we have differences of opinion based on different cultures and religions,” McMillan said.
The panel answered questions that students were able to submit before the event. The questions included defining what racism is, its impact and the impact of the most recent presidential election.
However, not everyone believes the panel raised as much awareness as it could have, according to SGA committee chair Perry Hicks.
“The idea was to help raise awareness and educate that Mercer has a beautifully diverse student population, in every sense of the word. Attendance was poor, but I think that had more to do with the time allotted for planning the event,” said Hicks.
Panel attendee Jaz Buckley suspects the low turnout was due to the sensitivity of the topic.
“It is not surprising that only 15 people showed up because as much as we all say we care about diversity, it is a difficult topic as well as it being something that we feel that we already know about or it being something that pertains to us or what we feel,” panel attendee Jaz Buckley said.
Although it did not turn out as expected, Hicks sees potential in the discussion template.
“The panel shifted more towards a political focus from the questions and ended up not completely reaching our goal for the event,” Hicks said. “It was a great event, and I think it could be very successful in the future.”
The shift to the political focus Hicks describes began with the panelists expressing their sentiments about President Donald Trump.
Some disagreed with the way President Trump is leading the country.
“He’s not focusing on the right issues in the country; he’s talking about a ban, and he’s talking about a wall. The reason people voted for him is because he’d bring change. He ran on bringing change and making America great, but he’s not really living up to his promises,” sophomore panelist Supreet Kaur said.
Meanwhile, another panelist touched on the benefits President Trump could bring to the country regarding the president’s executive order requiring two federal regulations to be repealed for each new one passed.
“From an economic standpoint, he has been doing some good things. Like recently, he put a law that said every time you pass a law, you take away two. Which, I consider a good thing because there are too many regulations in America, and some need to be cut down,” student panelist Samukai Sarnor said. [Editor’s note: The rule is an executive order rather than a law, and it pertains to regulations enacted by federal agencies.]
Although the panel discussion shifted away from Mercer’s diversity, an audience member asked how to increase diversity on campus, and some of the panelists suggested including it in the academic curriculum, increasing collaborations among Greek organizations and other student organizations.
“I’m a part of the Caribbean Student Association and when I ask people why they don’t come, they say, ‘I’m not Caribbean’. Well, then how do you expect to learn about our culture? The seat is there, but do you want to sit down,” student panelist Zandree Granston said.
Despite whether or not the “Civil Discussion on Campus Diversity” fulfilled the intended goal, some audience members felt it was a good start to a necessary conversation.
“I think it was good. It was definitely a good start to discussions of this nature,” Buckley said. “It is important to start this conversation because it is important to discuss issues of diversity and issues of race and specifically how they relate to student organizations and campus culture.”