||Schofield Hall 218|
||Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004|
UW-Eau Claire Group
MAILED: Oct. 26, 1999|
The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire attempts to provide its students with a broad range of experiences and information during their time in school. Making Our School An Intercultural Community is an organization involved in doing just that.
MOSAIC, the Housing and Residence Life's diversity task force, was established in 1993. It began as a group of hall directors and resident assistants but now consists of resident assistants and students from each of the 10 residence halls who develop and present programs on issues of diversity. The group, however, is open to anyone interested in participating.
Jodi Thesing-Ritter, MOSAIC adviser, is an advocate for such an organization.
"If we are not doing many things to educate our students for life in a multicultural nation, we are failing as an educational institution," Thesing-Ritter said.
The organization's largest and most recent activity was the nationally recognized "Tunnel of Oppression," an experiential program designed to increase awareness of different types of oppression and to create an understanding of oppression's effects.
The "Tunnel of Oppression," which was held Oct. 12-13 in conjunction with National Coming Out Week, addressed issues of race, gender, body image, poverty, religion, sexual orientation and disabilities. Nearly 600 participants were led through a tunnel of experiences involving all their senses in a multimedia presentation. Organizers showed video taken from a rape scene of a movie and acted out a domestic violence scene as part of the many scenes in the Tunnel.
Reactions to the Tunnel varied and were often strong.
"When I finished experiencing the Tunnel for my first time I was weak in the knees, and others mentioned that they were sick to their stomachs," said freshman Adam Nelson, Menomonie. "I think physical reactions to the emotions were not uncommon."
Freshman Shawn Wilson, Milwaukee, said, "The only thing I would like students to get out of the Tunnel is that these things are still happening. The question is, when is it going to stop?"
Besides the "Tunnel of Oppression," MOSAIC has organized "Archie Bunker's Neighborhood," a project that challenges students to think about white privilege, stereotypes and discrimination, Thesing-Ritter said. About five to 10 times a semester the group facilitates the 50-minute experiential activity in various UW-Eau Claire classes at the request of faculty. The students also have presented the activity for leadership seminars and the English Festival on campus.
MOSAIC also partners with other campus groups that promote diversity. Last year the organization helped promote the Black Student Association's Soul Food Dinner and assisted with Black History Month events. The group has worked with the Hispanic/Latino Student Association to plan and implement its May Festival de Culturas Unidas. MOSAIC also has collaborated with the Native American Student Association.
When not working toward increasing other people's awareness of diversity, the group members challenge themselves on issues of diversity. Thesing-Ritter said last year teams of MOSAIC members prepared weekly activities for the group to complete. They also have watched videos, read articles and even had a book club where MOSAIC purchased books for the students to read and discuss.
Thesing-Ritter has found that advising MOSAIC is beneficial to her as well as to the students.
"As a white, heterosexual woman I am constantly challenging the racism and homophobia I have as a member of a society where such things are institutionalized," she said. "The best thing about advising MOSAIC is that I have to constantly challenge those things that I do not like about myself and can do that while encouraging students to do the same thing. I also get the chance to work with remarkable students!"
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Oct. 26, 1999