Respected ISSS leaders:
The primary purpose of writing this letter is to promote a proposal which addresses the racism issue on the MU campus. It has been motivated by the fact that, based on the result of my on-campus social justice survey, racism still exists here on MU campus but in some obscure ways, mostly due to cultural and language differences. Forming deeper cross-cultural friendship with the US students is still the biggest challenge for international students but also the finest solution to this issue at the same time.
Background and Motivation
Before starting my argument, I would like to explain why I chose to state my proposal to ISSS.
The basic concept which the proposal is based on is that racism will be dispelled when a deeper relationship between different races has been developed via more multicultural interactions. In the article “Multiracial in a Mono-racial world”, the author claimed that people’s tendency of avoiding racial dialogues to retain one’s reputation will not do any good to solving racism (Museus 22). Escaping does not lead to solution. The better way is to create more opportunities for all of the students to get to know more about each other as well as to undergo more interaction, no matter officially or casually. Also, in the article “Why Can’t We Be Friends”, the author suggested that “the cultural competence can be improved by more multicultural exposure experiences which promote cultivating attitudes and skills needed for interactions, such as more open attitudes, cognitive flexibility, greater tolerance for uncertainty and a wider behavioral repertoire” (Williams 47).
As far as I can see, obscure racism and concealing the issue on purpose will keep international students suffering. More importantly, an encouraging environment of addressing the racism should be ensured before we start to improve it. Just as mentioned in Museus’s article, she argued that the negative impacts exerted by racism are salient and “educators have a responsibility to foster environments that acknowledge the important role of race in college life” (Museus 21). It claimed that students with multicultural or foreign-cultural background would “lose their passion for addressing racism when environments keep sending information discouraging such activities” (Museus 21). As a result, they will suffer a higher level of depression, frustration and confusion. As far as I could understand from the article, the efforts made by educators, no matter from academy or other departments, play an essential role in addressing racism, and such an encouraging environment would do a better job than just escaping from the issue.
According to my knowledge, the International Students & Scholars Services office is an authoritative organization that provides “a variety of support for the international students in Miami University in the aspects of international education services, consulting assistance and programming activities” (About ISSS). I am pretty sure that ISSS would be such a organization that is capable of creating a more supportive environment as well as pushing forward programs to address the issue instead of concealing it from the public as if the issue does not exist.
As an international student myself, I really appreciate the existence of your organization, because it helps to eliminate the estrangement and obstacles between different racial groups. However, in spite of the various remarkable programs which enlarge communications being already carried out, I found one crucial drawback of them. The common feature shared by all of the programs is that they mostly depend on individual voluntariness and interest. According to the article “Why Can’t We Be Friends”, the author stated the similar concerns that “availability alone does not insure participation”, and “U.S. student participation in multicultural programs is disproportionately low” (Williams 47). Of course, I am not saying that we should launch any program which could force everyone to take an active part in since that would be totally unreasonable. What I aim to emphasize is that the number of those who chose to participate in such activities would be greatly influenced both by numerous subtle excuses such as college students’ limited time and their avoidance of racial dialogues (Museus 21). This is the main reason why I intend to propose some other programs which might overcome such limitations.
The first proposal I want to make is to bring on more multicultural exhibitions. The essence of this kind of event is that we need to step out of those hard-to-notice buildings and throw all of those awesome programs into daylight. Our campus, Miami University- Oxford, has been holding the reputation of one of the most beautiful campuses in the USA since its establishment. Why not take advantage of our outstanding campus as a natural existent exhibition stage?
I understand that moving the events outside would have to meet other unexpected requirements, but the benefits would also be thrilling. If we are able to arrange some exhibitions that are performed by the international students of different race and cultures in public, it would be a special kind of “enforcement” on all of the students to experience the multicultural exposure. It ensures a much larger scale of audience so that those who have not attended such activities due to non-racial reasons will be provided the chance to feel the charm of different culture. What is more, it also creates a big chance that those who chose to avoid experiencing racial dialogue or interaction with multiracial members may change their mind after experiencing the diversity of race and culture. Their curiosity which is aroused by fresh and unfamiliar inter-cultural customs will push them to anticipate the merge of diversity.
Even if it is too difficult to find an open yard to carry out the exhibition, it will also be a effective choice to do it in a quite public place such as Armstrong Center.
This proposal is aimed to serve as the catalyst that will attract more groups of people to participate in other specific multicultural programs such as NationaliTea and Global buddies. Pulling all of the students into the cross-cultural interaction actively instead of waiting for windfalls would be a better solution.
There already exist some excellent examples whose concept is similar to my proposal. Jewish Folk Music, Karaoke Night and Island Bazaar are the events organized by Michigan State University that perform fantastic illustrations (OISS Events). What they are doing is to encourage and sponsor international students from different culture to exhibit their traditions based on the given topic such as music, clothing, food and so forth. They are allowed to choose every kinds of form to show themselves. More importantly, the events are located at various open areas such as a lounge within students’ neighborhood (OISS Events). So everyone could have a chance to take a part in it no matter whether they were intended to or not. The events did build up a community where deeper relationship between domestic students and all other students is being well developed. This is exactly the main purpose of my proposal that everyone will be involved into the process of understanding each other unwittingly and naturally. In addition, we could even create various mascots for each different culture. Then we could let students act as their mascots and interact with every stranger passing by during the exhibition.
Launching programs which will associate with academic courses to a greater extent as well as offering credits for participation in multicultural or international events is the second proposal I would post. Considering my own experience that almost every time I went to the Nationalitea, there were actually few American students there, and the activity became the interaction between international students themselves, I suppose the American students occupied a disproportionally little percentage of the participants of interaction activities I am aware that this proposal has more things to do with academic fields, but I think ISSS has enough power and authority to persuade academic departments to join in the effort of escalating multicultural interaction as well as eliminating on-campus racism. In the article “Why can’t we be friends”, the author propose a similar example that “class activities might be included in social and across-cultural courses such as interviewing international students about their cultural background, perceptions of the U.S., and adjustment experiences” (Williams 47). More specifically speaking of my own thoughts, I would like to suggest that we set up more extra credit opportunities for those multicultural courses which often confuse American students a lot such as the history of Asian images. We could let them understand the course content by encouraging them to participate in various ISSS events, which would provide them not only extra credits but also the opportunities of interacting with other races.
This proposal will create more incentives or motivations for American students, as well as other groups, to take a much more active part into the multicultural interaction, which will make such activities more effective and meaningful. Gaining more credits and higher grades along with the increasing chances of experiencing the fantastic diversity would be a really attractive incentive for the students.
However, there still might exist voices against my proposals.
Concerns about the unexpected and excessive cost of launching out-door multicultural exhibition might be the main issue addressed. People may argue that my suggestions will require much more costs such as yard fees, security fees, cleaning fees, and so forth. Also, some may regard it too costly to exert so much efforts on improving the relationship between different races.
However, in my opinion, it will also be not only economically but also academically worthwhile to take my proposal into serious consideration.
First of all, the trend of pursuing further education in the USA is inevitably true. According to the findings of NAFSA in 2013, “the 819,644 international students and their families at universities and colleges across the country supported 313,000 jobs and contributed $24 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2012-2013 academic year” (How). As to each individual university, the tuition paid by international students has become an indispensable part of education income, which also provides a solid support to maintain the high-quality American high education under the recession. Building a more considerate and advanced interaction system for multicultural or multiracial students will definitely promote a better performance when recruiting international students, which would also brings more available funds for all-sided developments.
Secondly, the cross-cultural friendship or deeper interaction between international students and American students led by better multicultural programs will benefit the both sides academically. In my opinion, every culture or race is accompanied with its own merits or advantages, no matter mentally or physically. If a deeper relationship as well as more interactions have been developed between different groups of students, then they will definitely be provided much more chances to realize what they could learn from each other. Asians’ hardworking and Western’s creativity might be examples of what we can learn from other cultures to improve ourselves. Still in William’s article, the author indicated that academic benefits are achieved as international students with U.S. student friends may have higher grades and retention rates, as well as higher ratings of satisfaction with their academic and nonacademic experiences than those without these relationships (Williams 42). This source performs a support to the academic benefit brought by cross-cultural friendship. Moreover, as I mentioned before, the benefits could reach many other dimensions such as life attitudes and working habits.
Numerous benefits will be led by international friendship. What I proposed is one way to improve cross-cultural interaction, which will exactly promote such friendships. When the academic and social achievements have been developed, it will lead to a higher level of school reputation, which will likely surpass the costs we bore. That is why I made such suggestions in spite of the higher costs.
From a deeper perspective, at the top of my thought, I have to claim the overwhelming importance of solving the present racism which mainly includes developing the cross-cultural friendship. Interestingly, this also means maintaining a balanced diversity. In the article “A Comparison of International Student and American Student Engagement in Effective Educational Practices”, the author claimed that an important goal of higher education is to prepare culturally competent individuals with the ability to work effectively with people from different backgrounds (Zhao 1). The skill of coping with diversified environment is gradually becoming indispensable. In addition, according to the article “Hate crimes on campus”, the result conducted by the authors indicated that more diversity leads to less hate crime and racial issues (Stozer 654), which illustrates another benefit from maintaining diversity. The point I want to highlight here is that maintaining diversity, the internal purpose of improving cross-cultural relationships, is an essential element of college education. So my proposal will make a greater sense if it leads to more and better such relationships.
The racism issues now existing in our community are really easy to be neglected due to its inconspicuous form. It might be difficult to find any truly incisive example which will definitely catch the eyes of the authority. However, the existence of any racism will undoubtedly exert negative impacts on all groups of people. The benefits of diversity will be erased by the racism. Some of my Chinese friends here even complained that they would rather not attend those classes because of the extremely awkward and uncomfortable group work moments.
I hope ISSS will take my proposals into greater consideration because, as far as I am concerned, creating more indirectly “enforced” chances as well as more incentives for all of the students to contribute efforts on promoting deeper relationship between each other would be the most rational and effective way to eliminate the racism to the maximum extent. Asking ourselves, who would be willing to hurt someone who has already been a friend indeed by teasing and desolating him or her?
“About the International Students and Scholars Services”. Miami University, n.d, n.p. Web. 10 April, 2014.
“Events”. Office of International Students and Scholars of MSU, n.d, n.p. Web.
Museus, Samuel D., April L. Yee, and Susan A. Lambe. “Multiracial In A Monoracial World: Student Stories Of Racial Dissolution On The Colorblind Campus.” About Campus 16.4 (2011): 20-25. ERIC. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
Stotzer, Rebecca L., and Emily Hossellman. “Hate Crimes On Campus: Racial/Ethnic Diversity And Campus Safety.” Journal Of Interpersonal Violence 27.4 (2012): 644-661. ERIC. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.
“The International Students Economic Value Tool.” NAFSA, 11 November, 2013. Web. 13 April, 2014.
Williams, CT, and LR Johnson. “Why Can’t We Be Friends?: Multicultural Attitudes And Friendships With International Students.” International Journal Of Intercultural Relations 35.1 (n.d.): 41-48. Social Sciences Citation Index. Web. 30 Mar. 2014.