In 1969, a handful of African-American students took it upon themselves to demand changes on Southern Methodist Universityʼs campus that lead to the creation of what would later be the Department of Multicultural Student Affairs. SMU has made great strides and takes great pride in saying we are a diverse student body, but nonetheless, we are still living in a time where the Department of Multicultural Student Affairs is very necessary, and many of the complaints made by those students in 1969 are still unresolved and unaccomplished dreams of the minority population here at SMU and in our community abroad.
Unfortunately, an important part of the DMSAʼs job is being left out of this discussion and must be addressed to understand why the office is needed, and reality is its name.
The society outside of SMU is an international community that unfortunately still consists of citizens who are judged based on their religion, cultural background, home of origin, sex, race, and other discriminatory factors. In order to be a diverse population, SMU must recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff from this society, and sadly, some of our fellow Mustangs have not developed the tolerance necessary to “be open to daily interactions and friendships with people of other backgrounds.” Should they be forced to eliminate their cultural barriers? No, because thatʼs what makes each of us a unique individual. Should they buy into the racial stereotypes ingrained into our cultures? Not at all. We must indeed come to a common understanding, but it is not that we are all Mustangs. The important understanding is that we are all human, and deserve the respect and validation that all human beings are entitled to.
The day that there is no Department of Multicultural Student Affairs is the day that our world can look at what makes us individuals and celebrate those differences dually with the fact that we are all human beings. Until that day, the majority and minority students here at SMU must face the reality of their differences and similarities head on and educate each other. Until then, DMSAʼs purpose is not yet fulfilled here at SMU, and the diversity education and invaluable cultural support the DMSA staff provides cannot be discounted.
To Mr. Baker and Ms. Jordan, your dream is and has been shared by many, from Mahatma Gandhi to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the minority students encourage you and our fellow Mustangs to continue to believe that a day will come when we donʼt need a DMSA. Until then, I challenge you to visit the DMSA office regularly and be the example to all your fellow classmates. Converse with the students who frequent that office, and actively experience its purpose by taking the initiative to truly understand how we feel and why we feel the DMSA is a necessary part of the SMU community.
Article by Alicia Hills ’05
Original Publication: 10/4/2004