By Alyssa Weston
YSU Students United hosted a student-led discussion on race and ethnicity Feb. 12 through a collaboration with MALAINA, a Youngstown State University Honors College organization, which stands for Middle Eastern, African American, Latino, Asian, international, Native American and Alaskan.
YSU Students United discussions aim to create a conversation about a topic that is often considered controversial and bring students together to see how they’re more alike than different.
Noor Khalayleh, a senior psychology major, helped organize the YSU Students United discussion and said the main goal of every discussion is to bring diversity to the conversation.
“When we think of diversity, we immediately think of race and ethnicity. That’s the default. So we wanted to establish that, yes, there is a discussion on race and ethnicity, and that needs to be talked about, but also at the same time there’s much more to diversity than just race and ethnicity,” she said.
Khalayleh said being able to have a conversation and understand differences shows students that their differences are what brings them together.
Students were placed at tables in Kilcawley Center’s Chestnut Room and given various questions about race and ethnicity to discuss.
Members of either YSU Students United or MALAINA were at each table to keep the conversation on track and to ensure all participants were being respectful.
Additionally, Avery Howard, a junior biology major, moderated the discussion.
After each series of questions, students were encouraged to stand up and share how they answered the question with the entire room.
“I think the people who chose to share and broadcast their opinions really kind of made the other people who were maybe too shy or felt like their opinion doesn’t matter really sit back and think, ‘Wow, that was a good point’ or ‘Maybe I should say this.’ So it provoked even more conversation later on during discussion,” Howard said.
Hannah Shively, a sophomore music education major, attended the event and emphasized the importance of events that foster conversations between students from different backgrounds.
“This is an opportunity where we have a safe platform to talk about not only our differences that we’re all bringing to even our individual tables but also the differences that we can bring to the university as a whole,” she said.
In Shively’s opinion, Youngstown is a hub of racial, religious and economic diversity.
“I think that we have a lot of opportunities around us, and I wish I was doing more to bridge those gaps. But, having events such as these [YSU Students United discussions] and even international coffee hour… those who are intentionally surrounding ourselves with people who are different from us, that’s a really good start,” she said.
Howard said the successful turnout of the event was necessary because it’s important to hear different viewpoints.
“The conversation that YSU Students United has, their different topics even on mental health, about race, about religion, these are topics that people are so afraid to talk about. And with discussion comes education and not just education but awareness,” he said.
YSU Students United will host its next discussion April 8. A topic is yet to be determined.