Center kicks off with talk on diversity

The Center for Inclusive Excellence has officially been introduced to the campus community.

The center, an on-campus group aimed to raise cultural awareness among students, is a hub for the LGBTQ, Black and Hispanic Resource Centers. Despite its establishment over the summer, the center held a kickoff in Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium Monday to help faculty and students better understand its purpose and services.

“The intent was to set the tone for The Center for Inclusive Excellence,” said Sapphire Cureg, the center’s director. “We wanted to use stories and human experiences to create and peak the interest of the various groups on campus.”

Steve L. Robbins, motivational speaker, humorist and human behavior expert, delivered the event’s keynote address.

Steve Robbins makes a joke during his speech on “Unintentional Intolerance” Monday in John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library. The presentation was part of the Center for Inclusive Excellence’s kickoff, which was held to familiarize the campus with its services. The center incorporates the Black Resource Center, Hispanic Resource Center and LGBTQ Resource Center to create a culture of diversity on SIU’s campus through various activities and events. Robbins used personal anecdotes, jokes and research to demonstrate ways in which unintended discrimination occurs. Laura Roberts-Daily Egyptian

Robbins presented “The Insider and the Outsider and How Labels Influence Human Behavior,” a speech about diversity and the societal problems it creates.

He also explained human behavior patterns that generate stereotypes and barriers among groups of people.

“We had faculty, staff and students in the room and I think his speech got everyone to start thinking and engaging in the dialogue and reaching out to one another,” Cureg said.

Robbins explained that diversity is spawned any time there is more than one person in the room. He said diversity includes much more than race, gender, sexual orientation and class.

“Why do we make judgments about individuals based on their gender, race and sexual orientation, but we don’t walk around making judgments of people based on the length of their hair?” Robbins asked. “Why do we have racism but not ‘hairism?’”

Robbins said problems arise when people emphasize certain aspects of diversity without addressing others. He said these behaviors are derived from media and societal influences.

“No one walks out of their room and says, ‘This is what I know about race,’” Robbins said. “They are learned over time.”

Robbins said closed-mindedness, not diversity, is the problem. He said his studies show humans demonstrate this behavior on a regular basis.

“We tend to navigate to the people who agree with us and not open our minds to other people who aren’t like us,” he said.

Instead, Robbins said, people should explore all cultures.

“Culture tells how we should act, what we should do and what we should wear,” he said.

Robbins’ appearance was the first in a series of programs and events the Center for Inclusive Excellence will host throughout the remainder of the school year. The center also has public events, student-led dialogues and a faculty and staff development series in its plans. Cureg said the next event is Nov. 16.

Peter Gitau, the associate vice chancellor of student life and intercultural relations, said Robbins’ speech helped make the center’s goal clear.

“We are trying to make this a place where we can all share our ideas,” he said. “We may not always agree, but this is very important.”

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