Multicultural Affairs office looks for common ground between campus & community

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Most of the 40 people who came out for a #Let’sSupportEachOther gathering last week in the university’s Office of Multicultural Affairs were staff members.

These counselors and residence life staff are on the front lines when it comes to dealing with students’ concerns. Not only their concerns as students at Bowling Green State University, but the concerns they bring with them to campus.

The meeting was called to discuss the recent incidents of black men dying in encounters with police officers, followed by the killing of five police officers on duty during a protest in Dallas.

While those in attendance, which included faculty, community members and two campus police officers, need to focus on students’ emotions, they must also deal with their own reactions.

Krishna Han, assistant director for diversity, said he found himself in tears on several occasions when watching videos related to the slayings. He had to eventually step back from social media.

One black woman spoke of her fears for her son. They live in a suburb of Toledo, and he is repeatedly followed and stopped by police, and he’s been stopped in Bowling Green as well.

Some expressed frustration over what they could do; others expressed frustration over the perceived lack willingness of others to take action.

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Emily Monago, director of the office, said in an interview the next day that she was surprised by the number of people who came out. “We just wanted to provide an opportunity for people to talk.”

She said one of the possibilities discussed was how to become more involved with the city’s Human Relations Commission and in the joint city-campus Not In Our Town movement. “How can we do more to promote that and get people involved? Those are some of the conversations we’re having. We’re trying to strategize about how we can make a stronger community connection.”

While Bowling Green may seem remote from the settings where these events unfold, the issues are still important for local residents to address, Monago said.

“Members of our Bowling Green are impacted by these events. … They have to acknowledge that people are in pain because of these events,” Monago said. Students bring their experience from neighborhoods that are very different from Bowling Green. “I don’t see how as a community we cannot address it. It’s an issue for all of us.”

The Office of Multicultural Affairs holds weekly dialogues as a way of “checking in with our students,” she said.

In fall it will again host an event where students and police officers have a chance to talk to each other.

“We just need to keep those conversations going,” Monago said. “As long as these conversations are happening on a national level, we have to have opportunities for our students to have conversations locally.”

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