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Students discuss diversity, equity and inclusion at UNC Executive Branch Town Hall

The UNC Executive Branch held a DEI Town Hall on November 13th, 2023. They addressed concerns regarding accessibility on campus and increasing visibility for multicultural groups on campus.

On Monday evening, the UNC Undergraduate Executive Branch hosted a town hall focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Students gathered in the auditorium in the Student Union to discuss problems faced by minorities, facilitate understanding and increase awareness of different multicultural organizations on campus. 

The town hall was led by Krystal Lacayo and Cecilia Derlon, DEI co-directors in the executive branch. Lacayo began the discussion by asking the audience about the impact of multicultural organizations on different cultures. 

Derlon said when she came to UNC she was nervous that she wouldn’t find a community of people that represented her identity.  Originally from Venezula, she said joining the club Mi Pueblo provided her with support. 

“I felt very represented in terms of speaking my language, hanging out with people that were like me, eating foods that I like and foods that I ate at home,” she said

An attendee said the UNC SPARK program, a retreat for first-year undergraduate women from underrepresented or marginalized backgrounds, helped facilitate understanding of what it means to attend a predominately white institution. 

The audience went on to discuss whether or not they felt multicultural organizations received the same support from the University compared to other groups on campus. 

UNC junior Jaleah Taylor, co-founder of the Black Pre-Law Association at UNC, said she was inspired to create a club focused on law school admissions for Black students following the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision. She said having this resource is important for future students who will attend the University. 

“It was a good opportunity for students to know what it’s like to go to law school as a Black student because, a lot of the time, we found that a lot of Black students don’t have access to other Black law students — because different disparities exist in our communities,” she said

Taylor said the University can help amplify their voices by providing funding and connecting the group to different alumni resources through workshops and speaking events. 

The ability for groups to access funding from the Undergraduate Senate was also brought up as a concern. A student proposed that the Undergraduate Senate host a “Funding 101” session every semester so that organizations can understand the process better. 

Students also expressed that partnering with other groups on campus could help foster connection and understanding. Taylor said the Black Pre-Law Association has focused on “collaboration” by working with Phi Alpha Delta, a pre-law fraternity at UNC, to help prepare students for law school admission tests. 

Elsa Landeros, co-president of Mi Pueblo, said working with other students can increase representation and diverse perspectives at the University. 

“I think that there should be more collaboration across other multicultural organizations because although we do have some differences, we definitely have a lot of similarities that we can use to help each other grow,” she said.

Students at the town hall also expressed concern over the safety of Muslim women and men given the current conflict in the Middle East. Some attendees said they felt that the University has not taken enough steps to protect and support individuals facing discrimination. 

Valeria Orozco, a UNC junior, said the University needs to acknowledge these problems.

“We are going through a difficult time — especially Muslims, who are going through a difficult time right now — and the least thing we can do as a community is to learn about these things and learn how to recognize them,” she said at the event.

Among other safety concerns, students said the University should offer Alert Carolina messages in languages other than English as it presented a safety hazard during the campus lockdowns.

Lacayo said she hopes to hold these meetings each semester. Giving students the opportunity to have these types of conversations, she said, ensures that the University upholds a standard of inclusion, diversity and equity. 

“The DEI department, as well as the executive branch as a whole, is committed to ensuring that our voices are heard,” she said. “We are working towards keeping these conversations and keeping in communication with all leadership so that we can find solutions for these concerns.”

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