Joelle Murchison, UConn’s chief diversity officer (CDO), has issued a directive stating that participation in homecoming activities under the name of cultural centers will be prohibited in the future. Murchison claimed that this decision was influenced by a perceived negative competitive spirit that arose among centers. Additionally, she stated that academics suffer during homecoming season, thus students who are already in an “academic disadvantage” because they are cultural center members should not participate, according to USG legislation from April 12. Murchison even cited disparity between floats and the walking units of cultural centers as grounds for this move.
Some UConn students are calling for Murchison to be placed on probation in light of these statements. Cultural centers are rightly angry that this decision was made behind closed doors without any attempt to reach out to those whom this order would affect. The Undergraduate Student Government recently passed legislation denouncing the move and supporting the participation of cultural centers in Homecoming. In recent days, petitions have circulated on social media in support of cultural center reinstatement.
Cultural centers play a critical role in showcasing and celebrating the diversity that UConn has to offer. Homecoming is one of the few campus-wide events that these centers participate in, and provides a way for students to learn about the opportunities they have to offer. Cultural centers deserve to put their organizations and school pride on display during Homecoming, just like Greek Life and other student groups.
The justification for this ban is built on very shaky ground. No evidence has been put forward to back up the claim that allowing cultural centers to participate in homecoming activities results in some sort of negative competitive spirit. Even if there was, banning all cultural centers without consulting them is a misguided action. If Murchison thought there was a problem she should have confronted them about it. Additionally, her comment about students in cultural centers being at an “academic disadvantage” is unfounded and frankly comes across as offensive.
It is important to cultural centers and the UConn community at large that cultural centers be allowed to participate in Homecoming. To not allow them to do so goes against what the chief diversity officer should stand for. There is no reason cultural centers should not be afforded the same opportunities to participate in their own right. Murchison should rescind her decision and allowing these groups to take part in this event.