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Thursday, February 02, 2023

‘I want our students’ cultural experience to be top 7 as well’: Students discuss culture over coffee

<p>Student Government’s multicultural affairs cabinet director Robyn Louis wanted to hear from students about what UF and SG could do better. So she hosted a “culture and coffee” event.</p>

Student Government’s multicultural affairs cabinet director Robyn Louis wanted to hear from students about what UF and SG could do better. So she hosted a “culture and coffee” event.

Students of all cultures are united by one thing: coffee. 

As Student Government’s multicultural affairs cabinet director Robyn Louis wanted to hear from students about what UF and SG could do better. So she hosted a “culture and coffee” event. 

“We’re Top 7, and I want our students’ cultural experience to be top 7 as well,” Louis said. 

The multicultural cabinet held the event Thursday morning in the Reitz Union. Bagels, pastries and coffee were provided for about 20 attendees. Food and decorations for the event cost about $150, Louis said. 

The event began with guest speaker PJ Jones, assistant director of UF Multicultural & Diversity Affairs, who said one of the main reasons the MCDA exists is because students across the country constantly experience acts of insensitivity, bias and hate on college campuses.

“We want to make sure that doesn’t happen here at the University of Florida,” Jones said.

Jones said it is important to discuss and celebrate cultures and identities to promote inclusion and diversity. She also encouraged engaging in conversations that may make people uncomfortable, like gender-neutral restrooms, people wearing hijabs or speaking in their native language.  

“It’s important for us to also note that there are so many things that students are literally just craving –– craving connection, craving support,” Jones said. “What we’d truly like to do is make spaces where people truly feel like they belong.”

After Jones’ speech, Louis initiated discussion. She asked what students thought about the upcoming openings of the Institute of Black Culture and Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, and how they felt about Asian Pacific Islander American Affairs and the LGBTQ+ community not having houses. One student was surprised APIA did not have a house, considering its population size in the student body.

Louis also asked students what UF could do to become more racially and culturally inclusive beyond the MCDA and having a multicultural cabinet. Students voiced concern about the amount of people who don’t know the MCDA exists because they feel like its presence isn’t known. 

Yalanda Nicolas, a UF 18-year-old architecture freshman, learned about the event through on-campus flyers. As a Haitian student, she recognized a lot of time and effort is being put in to make sure UF’s diverse student population feels safe and connected to their cultures. 

She said a key part in improving UF’s diverse population is hiring more diverse staff who students can relate to.

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“The people who are on this campus, I think they want to see change, so the diverse group we have are go-getter leaders,” she said.

Student Government’s multicultural affairs cabinet director Robyn Louis wanted to hear from students about what UF and SG could do better. So she hosted a “culture and coffee” event.

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