Taking PRIDE in diversity

In times where Palestinians openly chant anti-American slogans, some white Americans can be seen harassing Arabian-Americans out of fear and anger in response to the events of Sept. 11. Some programs, however, are working to fight the ignorance that breeds such hate.

At the University of Alaska Anchorage, a new organization called PRIDE (People Regulating Individual Diverse Experiences) is getting started with a semester-long course called Diversity Training held in the Business Education Building.

Together, five university staff members and 10 students are meeting every Friday morning to address diversity issues.

Sociology majors and resident advisers are among the group of students attending the class. This would seem like an excellent way for sociology students to take a closer look at issues of oppression and learn to accept diversity. Also, the course may assist residence advisers in dealing with issues that come up in their dorms.

Throughout this semester, social topics will be dealt with like stereotyping, the role of culture and individuals in relation to others.

The class tackles these issues by defining the topic, relating personal experiences and performing intense classroom exercises.

During an exercise that dealt with stereotyping, individuals took turns standing in the center of a circle for 60 seconds with a label on their back. The labels had words on them such as "black, gay, feminist and Alaska Native."

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The person in the center did not know which label they were wearing. The surrounding people then were asked to voice all the known stereotypes linked to that label.

Jow Weise, a freshamn sociology major, stated that at first he thought the exercise was kind of tacky.

"But after we did it, I thought it was deep," Weise added.

According to Weise, many of the students had strong reactions to the many stereotypes named.

"Some of them started taking it personal, " Weise said.

Due to the instructors' wishes for a safe, open environment for people to share and gain trust with one another, the diversity-training course was closed to any further enrollment after the second week.

Reporters have been asked not to attend the classes, out of fear that their presence may close individuals off from sharing their thoughts with the group.

However, some individuals involved in PRIDE agreed to talk with the Northern Light.

"It has a very therapy-kind-of feeling to it," Weise said. "Everyone should have experience with it."

"The more training one can get about it, the better," Weise said.

The class opened this semester as a one-credit, independent-study or for free, without earning credit.

PRIDE will continue with the courses, "Training for peer facilitators," which will be offered for the upcoming spring semester.

The current course is a "pilot" to gauge interest and work out how the PRIDE courses will be organized at UAA in the future.

Student Leadership Coordinator Jim Mohr and Student Programs Coordinator Carol Lund started the program.

Mohr originally thought of the idea for starting a diversity program at UAA after he attended a conference put on by the Association of College Personnel Administration. The ACPA was using their conference and workshop to try to engage students in diversity training and learning.

Student Leadership Development, Student Programs, AHAINA, Residence Life, and Native Student Services are sponsoring the PRIDE organization.

The groups of instructors for the diversity-training course are Lund, Mohr, Residence Coordinator Zach Manzella and AHAINA Program Coordinator Rebecca Teniente.

Currently, Mohr and Lund are seeking to earn a grant from Tesoro Co. for PRIDE.

Winning recipients of the grant will be announced later in the semester.