Diversity Task Force highlights social issues

Diversity exists in many forms. Whether it’s race, religion or social status, people across the world are different in countless ways, and UW-Green Bay is no exception.  The Diversity Task Force hopes to bring awareness to various social issues with the event Boxes and Walls April 10 and 11 from 1-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. in the Alumni Rooms.

Boxes and Walls is a diversity program with many different options for development. The experience allows the UWGB community to face some of the most difficult and complex social issues that may not always be apparent.

It was last offered in 2007, where topics such as Hmong culture and body image were discussed.

This year, there will be four rooms available: First Nations Studies, Transgender, Poverty and Glory Glory.

Each room is led by members of the Diversity Task Force and other campus leaders.

Jeff Willems, area coordinator for Residence Life, said all four rooms will have activities to bring awareness to issues in each of the selected topics.

Program sessions will be located in different rooms throughout the Union. The Alumni Rooms will be the starting point for the program, but Willems described it as a self-guided tour.

Ben O’Heran, junior first nations studies and environmental policy and planning major, will be one of the people in charge of the First Nations Studies room.

According to O’Heran, each student will be given a card with the name of an indigenous nation that is currently in Wisconsin.

Students will learn about the tribes, traveling from pre-contact to self-determination, with stories and pictures along the way, imitating Native Americans’ progression through time.

Following the activity, students will also discuss a variety of current issues, such as derogatory school mascots.

O’Heran hopes students will gain a better understanding of the change and hardships throughout history.

“People tend to live in the here and now and ignore everything that’s happened before them,” O’Heran said. “People and things that have happened in the past have an effect on the current situation and the mindset of the peoples that live here.”

There will also be a room focused on issues faced by the transgender community.

Jack Mellberg, senior human development and psychology major, will be one of the leaders for the room.

Although activities are still being planned, Mellberg and other members of Sexuality and Gender Alliance hope to have transgender individuals themselves design the room.

Mellberg aims to spread the word about the lack of consideration for a third gender.

“We hope to gain a little more insight,” Mellberg said, “not to invoke a sense of sympathy or discrimination, but to enforce the idea that the gender binary, which basically is female and male, is a nonexistent, yet socially created aspect.”

Glory Glory will be a discussion about the perceptions and realities of war.

The most recent war discussed in the session is the Vietnam War.

Laina Wydeven, junior history major, is one of the students running the room.

During the session, images will be displayed showing how war has been glorified in the past and the reality of it, which is frequently overlooked.

Wydeven said each student may take something different out of the session.

“I hope they take a critical analysis toward issues like that,” Wydeven said. “I want them to understand there’s always more than one side to why conflicts are fought.”

Another issue being presented at the program is poverty.

Seenia Thao, junior social work major, hopes the session will add a lot to students’ knowledge of the issue.

Thao wants people to realize that poverty is all around us and affects everyone, even though it may not seem like it.

Since program attendees will have different reactions to the process, Willems hopes to have counselors available throughout each session.

Room 103 in the University Union will be a processing room, where students will have the option to ask questions, as well as give feedback regarding the sessions.

Willems hopes the program will encourage students to take action and learn more about different issues.

“I hope students get a better understanding of what’s out there,” Willems said. “I hope they look at things a different way with a critical view.”