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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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U Students Talk Tolerance and Diversity at the U

Several U students expressed their opinions about how the university handles tolerance and diversity following a Tolerance Means Dialogue event attended by Gov. Spencer Cox
%28Design+by+Cecilia+Acosta+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Cecilia Acosta
(Design by Cecilia Acosta | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

“We should disagree,” said Gov. Spencer Cox, speaking at an event put on earlier this year by the group Tolerance Means Dialogue. “We should disagree profoundly. Our nation was founded on profound disagreement. I am not asking anyone to give up any iota of their beliefs, the things that they hold dear. That’s not what this is about. It’s about disagreeing in the right way.”

On Oct. 30, students from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah came together to discuss and read winning essays about living peacefully in a diverse and pluralistic society.

Tolerance Means Dialogue is a group that was formed to bring together people from all over the country to discuss easing conflict in individual communities. According to the group’s website, constructive dialogue is particularly important when social values interact with faith, causing friction and a lack of solutions.

The discussion between BYU and the U was especially influential as Utah is unique when it comes to a pluralistic society, said Cox.

The event focused around the goal to facilitate discussion between diverse groups to create a more welcoming and constructive society.

And yet, according to interviews with a couple of undergraduate students, coupled with research on how the U is doing with tolerance as a whole, the U still has progress to make beyond just constructive discussions.

Amanda Diamond is an undergraduate student who, after graduating from the U 20 years ago, decided to come back for an additional degree. She said the school is doing much better with creating a welcoming environment for diversity and tolerance than it has done in former years but she has also noticed ways for the school to improve.

“Generally, the U is doing a much better job than they did 20 years ago,” she said. “And yet, I have been seeing things in the past month that have made me a little nervous. I’m seeing more transphobic literature posted around the U that I have not seen in the previous couple of years, for instance. I don’t like that trend.”

Aspen Marshall, one of the essay winners of the Tolerance Means Dialogue event, echoed Diamond’s concerns when she spoke at the event.

“The world is painted in black-or-white lenses,” Marshall said. “If you have an opinion, it must be on one side of the issue. It can’t be a mix of both sides. Obviously, that immediately presents a huge issue. Life is a lot more complicated than opinion A or opinion B.”

In addition to her concerns about the direction of language at the U, Diamond voiced her worries for the insufficient attention the school gives to students with disabilities. She talked about a recurring experience she has had with wheelchair access in elevators, and said she feels the U doesn’t have enough ADA compliant parking close to campus.

“There’s something I see pretty frequently on President’s Circle for those that are electric wheelchair bound,” Diamond said. “When the elevators in those buildings break down without notice for maintenance on a school day, it’s a problem.”

Diamond said the school needs to do more than discuss these issues, and that they should actively address problems.

Sarah Adams, a student majoring in criminology, also expressed frustration about talk with no action. Throughout her time at the U, Adams said she’s seen a lot of what she feels like are empty words on campus.

“I see a lot of signs that say ‘you’re accepted here’ and ‘we love you,’” she said. “I just feel like they don’t really talk about it in a way that’s conducive to change.”

Adams added the U could change this pattern through integrating more diverse education into the school’s curriculum.

“Schools don’t really educate about queer culture or things like tolerance and diversity,” she said. “I feel like if the U offered more courses focused on diversity and advertised more diverse groups, the environment would be a lot more welcoming.”

However, while these insufficiencies in education and a welcoming environment are challenging for diverse students who feel they need to be addressed, Diamond and Adams both lauded the U for the many welcoming and progressive elements the school has implemented in the past and present.

“The U is doing a great job at standing firm when it comes to hurting trans and LGBTQ kids,” Diamond said. “When the state law stuff came in saying you can’t provide this, that and the other care for tans youth, the university put up electronic billboards saying come see us for your trans care, your hormone treatment, etc. I’m proud of the U for that.”

Additionally, Adams said she appreciated the diverse set of clubs the U offers, saying that every student can find a group to feel at home.

“No matter who you are, what you’re interested in or what your identity is, there is most likely a club for you to feel welcome,” she said.

 

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@jamie_k_faux

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About the Contributors
Jamie Faux, News Writer
(she/her) Jamie Faux began as a news reporter at the Daily Utah Chronicle in the summer of 2023. She is a double major in English and finance at the University of Utah with the goal of becoming an author after graduation. Jamie grew up in Provo and enjoys outdoor sports, reading, and traveling.
Cecilia Acosta, Designer
Cecilia is excited to be at the University of Utah studying Graphic Design and Animation. She's grateful to be a part of a team of such creative individuals here at the Chronicle. Although originally from Mesa, Arizona, she has been loving the gorgeous scenery, snowy winters, and fun activities that Utah has to offer. Besides art and design, she also enjoys hiking, boba tea, dancing, and journaling.

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  • F

    Fred SammeFeb 24, 2024 at 6:22 pm

    Attending the Tolerance Means Dialogue conference was so inspiring and hopeful! Senator Adams from the Utah Legislature gave 3 valuable points to disagree better:

    -Listen to someone you don’t agree with

    -Protect someone you don’t agree with

    -Try to understand someone you don’t agree with

    Those, for me, were fantastic, practical ways to create a more engaged, inclusive and safe campus community.

    Reply