SUU Center for Diversity and Inclusion hosts panel to reflect on instances of discrimination in Cedar City

Southern Utah University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion hosted its More Than Just One Incident panel to discuss previous instances of discrimination both on campus and in the local community.

The panel was held on Nov. 14 from 5:30-7:30 p.m., exactly two weeks after a group of teens was recorded wearing blackface in the local Walmart. Its creation focused on discussing two ideas: this was not an isolated incident and discrimination in the community is neither scarce or new.

The panelists were selected based on their involvement with CDI clubs such as the Black Student Union, the Pride and Equality Club and the Native American Student Association.

Those that took part in the panel included:

— Moises Trejo-Garcilazo
— Mahala Sutherland
— Destiny Adams-Watt
— Paige Iverson
— Taylee Dunlap
— Haley Artinger

All of the panelists recounted their experiences on campus and how racial discrimination or homophobia has affected their lives during their time at SUU.

Mahala Sutherland, who is one of the five beacons for the CDI, the director of the SUU diversity council and one of the five speakers at SUU’s most recent TEDx conference, shared one such experience she has had with a professor on campus.

“Within this past semester, I’ve had an experience where a professor told me, during my preparation for my TED Talk, that Native American people are lazy,” Sutherland said. “Therefore, I’m not worthy to be in that space.”

Taylee Dunlap, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community who grew up in Utah, also shared an example of when smaller comments made by other students have left a lasting negative impression.

“There are some little comments that don’t seem like they might be degrading, but they really are,” Dunlap said. “Stuff like, ‘Well, they can be gay, but they just can’t put it in my face,” and, a lot of the time, ‘putting it in their face’ just means existing.”

While prior experiences on campus were the primary focus, the panelists also provided ways for the audience to learn and expand upon their knowledge to be more inclusive.

Paige Iverson, the vice president of the Black Student Union, encouraged those with questions regarding issues of race, gender, sex or any other social issue to simply ask someone who has dealt with the issue, as many people would be willing to help.

“It’s okay to ask questions,” Iverson said. “It’s okay to be curious about things. You’ll find that a lot of people want to answer questions. I would rather have people ask me questions than just assume, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, and just go for it. Be respectful about it, but definitely ask.”

After the initial panel, the organizers allowed those in attendance to ask questions and share their opinions by asking the panelists questions directly, as well as through small group discussions after the panel concluded. The organizers also provided mental health resources for those at the event who wanted to further discuss problems they are dealing with in a more private manner.

Moises Trejo-Garcilazo, the current SUU College of Education and Human Development senator, discussed how he hoped that the panel provided a new view regarding Cedar City’s social issues.

“I just want everyone to walk away with a new perspective on how incidents as to the one why we’re hosting this event can make others feel and how that may isolate others based on their demographics,” Trejo-Garcilazo said.

For those interested in learning more about the CDI, visit their official website or their office in the Sharwan Smith Student Center, located at ST 101.

Story and Photo by: Luke McKenzie