Students held a brown bag titled “Are We Here to Entertain You?” on cultural exoticism in the Africana, Latin American, Asian American and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center last week to discuss the roles of different groups on campus. The brown bag included a panel of several students from various cultural clubs at Colgate who tried to figure out a way to change the perception of their groups on campus.
The panel was led by President of the Korean Student Association (KSA) sophomore Alan Kim, sophomore Yixin (Eli) Ye representing the Chinese Interest Association (CIA), senior Hoa Bui representing the Colgate Vietnam Society (CVS) and sophomore Lorelai Avram representing the Colgate International Community (CIC). Sophomore Misha Vebrova, who was also representing the Colgate International Community (CIC), moderated the questions for the panel.
The panel responded to the questions that Vebrova presented, and then those in the audience were able to respond or ask their own questions.
The first question that was asked was about the role that cultural clubs play on campus. Bui responded by saying that she did not believe that the function of these groups was to merely teach the dominant groups on campus about their cultures.
“Why are we catering to the needs of other people?” Bui said. “There is an expectation of you to be frozen with your own culture.”
Avram said that culture should not be a way of differentiating people or singling them out as different.
“Culture clubs produce the idea that we are different and that we can not contribute toother groups on campus because we are different,” Avram said.
Kim discussed how these cultural groups have to function more as a way of coming together and as a way of having cultural groups interact with the predominantly white groups on campus.
“When you guys [in the majority groups] come to our events, don’t just segregateyourselves into your own friend groups,” Kim said.
Kim believes that despite the flaws with these clubs, they have the potential to help students meet other people on campus. Bui talked about how events, such as Lunar New Year, become a way of teaching others about their culture and how it should not have to be this way.
“People come, just eat and leave,” Bui said.
Bui also addressed the idea of culture and the way that people are perceived. She commented that people are different and that a person’s culture should not be a way of defining them.
“I expect people to love me for my differences,” Bui said.
Ye sees these clubs as a way of making people aware of current things that are going on in the countries that they come from.
“The role of cultural clubs should be toupdate the world,” Ye said.
The panel initiated a lot of dialogue with the audience, and it became an open forum for communication.
“Though I’m an international student myself, I’m not active in any cultural clubs here, and [I’m] pretty much unaware of their role,” first-year Ali Alawi said. “Coming to this event had opened [my mind] up to multiple issues that go beyond the localized aspect of cultural clubs and had made me reconsider or become skeptical about a lot of notions I held.”
To conclude the brown bag, Vebrova asked the panel what the clubs should do in the future to make the changes that they wanted to see. Kim said that uniting the different cultural groups would be a good way to start.
“I’ve distanced KSA from Asian cultural groups,” Kim said.
Ye speaks optimistically about what these groups can be like in the future.
“I really hope there [will] be more kinds of communications other than holding meetings and providing food,” Ye said. “I hope to hear from other people and to learn what they expect from the cultural groups. I think this could absolutely help us to decide what to do in the future.”
Contact Holly Mascolo at [email protected]