A typical day on campus can include the sound of rhythmic salsa music as couples shake and shimmy their way through the quad in the afternoon sun;. a celebration of culture. In the same day, one could also catch a viewing of The Vagina Monologues, a production aimed at deconstructing and subverting traditional notions of gender.
Excited chatter overheard in the halls could be in any number of languages- English, Spanish, Chinese, and even German- the list goes on. The aromas in The Piazza reflect a range of cuisine from the likes of Korea to Mexico and to the humble “All American” pb&j.
All of the variability apparent in the day to day reflects the cultures of PCC’s diverse student population. One of the largest cultural communities on campus is the Latinx community.
Associated Students (AS) VP for Business Affairs, Alejandro Morales, moved from Mexico just a few years ago. He finds that pride in his culture is exuded through the nuances of his personality.
“I celebrate my culture but because it’s a choice of mine,” said Morales. “To be Mexican is not to wear a shirt that says ‘Mexico’ on it or speak Spanish but it’s to share the values that Mexican families impose on their children. That’s how I celebrate being Mexican.”
One common theme among students is a reluctance to assume labels or identities. Though they welcome new opportunities for inclusion, students like Sophia Um don’t necessarily feel compelled to congregate with those of like-minded beliefs, experiences, or backgrounds.
“I’m not really involved in any communities,” Um said.
Similarly the limitations of such groupings are not lost on fellow student, Katy Flores.
“Because I’m not of a certain race, I feel like I identify with many,”she said.
Instead, the focus seems to be on a holistic perception of the individual, not the community you associate yourself with.
“You as a person are a business card so [it’s] what you wear, how you talk, how you communicate with people,” Flores said. “It’s not just religion and where you come from but how you represent yourself.”
Morales echoes her sentiments saying he “doesn’t feel the need for representation”.
“The idea of trying to be represented has lost its value. It’s become more of an idea, a mindset,” said Morales. “It’s purpose is to empower students and it is valuable but without really asking why it’s valuable-why should we be proud.”
For those who look to their environment for diversity, the campus boasts a variety of individuals from various backgrounds.
One of the beacons of connection and inclusion of these diverse groups is the Cross Cultural Center, an organization designed to facilitate awareness and appreciation for various cultures across campus, according to advisor of the Center, Jahvrey Bailous.
“I think there’s a lot of cultures that are represented on campus,” said Bailous. Now, it’s just ensuring that everyone knows that these folks are here and providing an outlet and a voice for some of those groups.”
From Ujima, a program that assists African American students achieve academic success through events and aide, to the Feminist Club, dedicated to supporting women’s rights, clubs offer a ready stream of opportunities for inclusion for various identities.
“PCC doesn’t have a policy where you have to change who you are to be accepted. What I wear and what I represent might be completely different than somebody else but they might like what I represent,” Flores continues.
However, despite campus efforts, there are a number of underrepresented communities that remain to be highlighted.
“I’ve seen signs offering ‘Out in STEM’ which I like and I know that we have an LGBTQ+ club as well so it would be nice to see a little more advocating for that especially since it transcends ethnic background-it’s intersectional,” Um said .
As far as outreach on campus, Flores notes the singularity of campus efforts, as she notes that most of the inclusion relies on involvement in club life.
Um also sees the importance of integrating diversity beyond social endeavors.
“In an academic context, representation means offering different courses to people that study art, culture, history-to help people have better perspective of other people’s societies and beliefs,” said Um .
In many ways, campus diversity is an imperative learning opportunity, for both individual and societal growth, as they express the similarities and differences across cultures both students and staff note.
“I think when we get to college campuses, it’s a microcosm of our nation,” said Bailous. “It’s a representation of what it means to be not only in the job market but in our day to day lives. It’s important for students to be able to share their stories and experiences.”