“We schedule Diversity Week early in the academic year because it is important for all of our students to know how valuable their presence is to our community,” says Dean of Graduate Programs Al Sturgeon. “Further, it provides an opportunity early in the academic year for our graduate students (most of whom are international students) and our JD students (most of whom are domestic students) to get to know one another and learn from the rich cultural variety that exists in the law school community.”
Here is a recap of the week’s events.
Tuesday: Global Village Day
Global Village Day included 26 tables (see the list) hosted by students, staff, and faculty of countries and cultures ranging from California to China to Uzbekistan/India. Tables provided traditional foods, garments, books, pictures, and facts about the culture. View the Global Village Day photo album here (Flickr).
Wednesday: “My Story”
3Ls Ashley Crump and Brittany Hughes led a presentation on “My Story: Individualizing Diversity.” Each attendee received a note card on which they wrote numbers 1-9 in a random order on five lines. The presenters then showed a slide that had columns of Race/Ethnicity, Religion, Age, Sex, and Occupation, with different answers tied to a number. This became the “user profile” with which one was to embrace and view the presentation as. (An example of a user profile: an Afro-Hispanic adult (35-45) male in the healthcare profession whose religious beliefs were Native (tribal/indigenous).) After shifting mindsets, attendees were taken through “your day in a nutshell” to contemplate the positive or negative encounters that may be present. The morning began with religion. Via the various user profiles, it may have been a morning of prayer, meditation, or perhaps neither. Brittany explained that religion is a source of core belief and affects how one views their place in the world, which is why religion needed to be included in matters of diversity. Following, attendees “chased beauty” by looking for sources on how to look their best. The room visited magazines such as GQ and Vogue, watched a snippet of the Morning Show, and even Googled “The Most Beautiful People in the World.” The point being, no one source provided diverse images, and most of the room did not find an image that resembled their own user profile. The afternoon then held its own challenges in the workplace. Brittany reiterated that providing an inclusive workplace is crucial to success and productivity; people bring their religion, physical features, and other personal aspects with them to work daily. Attendees were presented with scenarios that left interpretation open to individuals based on their own user profile, an example being a news story circulating the metaphorical office in which a member of (insert your race here) had been shot. Attendees silently pondered these situations with their newfound user profiles in mind.
After the day-to-day examples of incidents were presented, Ashley Crump explained types of racism (collective, individual, ideological, personal, social) and the term microaggressions as being an indirect or subtle statement or action involving race, providing verbal and non-verbal examples. Verbal examples included ” you’re really pretty for a (insert race here),” and “but where are you originally from.” Non-verbal examples included people visibly moving seats in response to someone entering an airplane. She explained the difference between intention and impact. Although someone may believe they have good intentions with a saying or action, they should also consider the impact: how would it make this person feel if told they are pretty in context of their particular race? Brittany concluded by urging attendees to be conversive not combative, and reiterated that diversity is truly unique to an individual and their journey and should not be viewed in a “group” mentality.
Thursday: Four Professors, Four Faiths
A discussion panel moderated by University Chaplain Sara Barton featured four professors of faith and an attendance of roughly 100 students, staff, and faculty. Naomi Goodno (Christian), Michael Helfand (Orthodox Jew), Sukhsimranjit Singh (Sikh), Ahmed Taha (Muslim), spent time discussing their faiths in conjunction with their work and family life. Read an account of the session and watch a video of some of the discussion here.
A few paraphrased questions and answers included:
How does your faith affect your daily life at Pepperdine Law, which identifies with a Christian mission?
Goodno: I really love that it is a safe place to have a discussion or offer prayer, and that students can feel comfortable talking to faculty or staff about faith matters.
Singh: I truly feel respected and welcomed at this Christian institution, and feel that is true for each person regardless of their beliefs.
Helfand: I find that the religion and law discussions are sophisticated; I am able to incorporate faith into my classes and hear students contributions. It’s not just embraced here, it’s encouraged.
What is a custom or faith practice you are committed to, no matter how busy your day gets (student submitted)?
Helfand: The Sabbath. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, you can’t get a hold of me, it’s cellphones and everything off. There are times when very critical things are occurring at say, 7pm Friday evening, but I wouldn’t trade that time with my family for anything.
Taha: I have my five daily prayers.
Goodno: I pray on my drives. I often say that the move to LA has made my faith stronger, because the traffic is so awful (followed by laughter from the room).
Singh: Suk encourages meditation and music. It also praises early mornings, so I often like to spend time with my wife and daughter then. We will go for a walk or have a cup of tea.
As an attorney and person of faith, how do you make sense of our current political environment?
Helfand discussed a survey that showed Jews to be well liked, but also a highly targeted group. He explained how he felt it a moral responsibility to speak on behalf of minorities; although he is part of a targeted religious affiliation, his voiced concerns have the opportunity to be well heard. Singh encouraged taking the high road in the face of religious stereotypes. Goodno reflected that while our current political situation seems dark and depressing, it is often out of darkness that someone can shine the brightest. She encouraged students to shine bright and not let others get bullied, just as she teachers her own family.
How has your faith affected/led your vocation?
Singh discussed that the practices in dispute resolution of reconciliation, forgiveness, and listening to others were also in line with his faith. Helfand remarked that his place at Pepperdine allowed him to incorporate the issues he thought about daily
Read more and watch a video of some of the discussion here.
The event was sponsored by the Interfaith Student Council which seeks to promote religious diversity on campus and host discussions surrounding faith. For more information about the Council, contact student email@example.com.