Gender and race workplace discrimination
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Making Connections and Diversity on Campus
By Rachel Bimonte
BRISTOL, R.I. — Not only does Bader AlGasem want to encourage his fellow international students to be themselves, he wants them to know that it is okay to have opposing views to their friends or classmates.
AlGasem attends Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, where he is perusing his degree in Architecture. AlGasem came to the United States at age 18 from his home country of Saudi Arabia, not only to learn, but also to take care of himself and learn to do things for himself.
Though the largest population of international students on the Roger Williams University campus is students from Saudi Arabia said AlGasem, given that, he still goes through struggles every day. AlGasem says that he is able to speak his native language of Arabic with the other Saudi students, but when it comes to translating sentences in his head, he sometimes mixes things up and his American friends just do not understand.
Don Mays, Director of the Intercultural Center at RWU, where Bader works as a student, says the IC works hard to make the space a home away from home.
“I haven’t really encountered a lot of racism and racial discrimination or anything,” says AlGasem. However, Mays knows that the prejudice is out there — on the Roger Williams University campus, and elsewhere.
“We want to ensure that any students who are coming here will not experience any of those kinds of prejudices or those insults,” said Mays.
Students especially who are coming to the United States to get a degree, deserve to “reap the benefits of our amazing educational system,” said Mays.
Nearly 30 percent of the foreign born population had a college degree in 2014, according to a report made by the Migration Policy Institute — that is about 10.5 million immigrants in the United States. The number of immigrants who obtained a college degree, nearly doubled from 2000 to 2014.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities linked back to the Migration Policy Institute’s report in a 2015 news post, pointing out that immigrants and second generation immigrants make up 20 percent of all United States college students.
With 20 percent of all college students being immigrants or second generation immigrants, it is a fact that schools need organizations like the Intercultural Center at Roger Williams University to point out that yes, the information on immigration is “misleading, misguided and incredibly wrong,” as Mays said, but the conversation needs to change.
The conversation needs to change to shed light on this misinformation about immigration. It then needs to reinforce what universities around the country are doing to make sure their students do not take a direct hit to the prejudices that people in this country still have.
With the mention of prejudice, it is only right to discuss the even larger population on campuses, which is, students of color. Immigrant students, a lot of the time, will fall under this larger population. The Intercultural Center at RWU is a space where there are no limits, no boundaries — the students are able to talk about anything. It is a safe space where everyone knows they will be free of any prejudice that may be going on in the classroom or around campus. But that’s just the issue, many of the students in the Intercultural Center, often bring up phrases they hear in the classroom, walking down the side walk, and sometimes, even right to their face.
Mays said, “”We often have conversations about what happens in other places on campus, sometimes in classrooms on campus and how very often students feel that they are not treated in the same way. Sometimes there are microaggressions, sometimes macroagressions both inside the classroom and outside the classroom.”
Microagressions are a dangerous form of speech, because it is often implying something about a student, usually in a stereotype manner — but it is often not true, and does not pertain to the individual at all.
The Atlantic speaks on this topic directly in an article it published at the beginning of 2016. The article is titled, “The Cost of Balancing Academia and Racism.” The article opens with the fact that many students, around many college campuses, do not feel that their university does a good job in accommodating minority students.
The article also points out that when a student has to deal with institutionalized racism and microagressions, it is adding a whole other layer of stress and worry that white students do not have to deal with on a day to day basis.
Among many other universities around the country, Roger Williams University has been committed to growing the amount of diversity on campus. Recently, the university has come out with a series of statements on diversity and inclusion. Though the steps are put in place, many would argue that they do not see it happening around the campus.
In regards to the diversity on Roger Williams University, AlGasem said, “There’s definitely not a lot of diversity on campus. There are little people of color around here. But I think overall, the atmosphere is very friendly.”
AlGasem encourages his fellow students to come out of their comfort zone sometimes and listen to other students who have different points of views, maybe even opposing views. He takes the time to listen to his American friends who tend to be liberal compared to him and talk out differences. AlGasem also takes the time to speak his native language with the other Saudi students on campus, and spend time in the Intercultural Center with friends and classmates.