Take action, or you’re not part of the solution

The UC Davis Cross Cultural Center recently held its third annual Intercultural Educational Retreat. The well-attended event was billed as an opportunity "to turn fear and lack of knowledge into acceptance, cooperation and community harmony." Without question, it succeeded.

The REACH retreat, which stands for Reaffirming Ethnic Awareness and Community Harmony, was themed "Exploring Ethnicity and Spirituality." The Jan. 11-13 event was attended by more than 120 people - about twice the number that opted to attend last year. I was invited to participate as a guest speaker and was greatly impressed by what I witnessed and experienced during my short time with the participants.

The retreat offered a safe environment for students and faculty and staff members to explore and talk about issues of culture, ethnicity, disabilities, gender and sexual orientation while building a greater sense of community.

Staff participants included Griselda Castro of Student Affairs and Chicana/o studies, Janet Gong of Student Affairs, Stephanie Hubbard from Student Housing and Linda Alexander of the Learning Skills Center. Faculty participants included Karen Shimakawa of Asian American studies and Sergio de la Mora of Chicana/o studies.

Interactive sessions and discussion groups helped attendees gain self-knowledge and self-appreciation, improve their intercultural communication and identify strategies that promote diversity and the Principles of Community.

Upon my arrival, I was immediately struck by the number of students I met who mentioned how fatigued they were from the first full day of events. Work that day had centered around issues of ethnicity, cultural identity and differentiating spirituality from religion, and students said the activities had been challenging and emotionally draining. Even the process of just opening communication with other students from differing backgrounds and perspectives was difficult for many.

In the end, the group had developed a better understanding of a task that we too often verbalize as a simple thing - but one which in application is not - "developing an appreciation and respect for differences."

REACH retreats push students beyond simple verbal affirmation of the Principles of Community to address how we put those principles into operation. Participants develop action plans that identify areas in which they are willing to invest their time during the winter, spring and fall quarters. And on April 10, during a 2000-02 retreat reunion, past participants will discuss what they have been working on.

We cannot live the Principles of Community by simply saying them or committing them to memory. We must take some course of action to bring these principles to life. The passage "We recognize that each of us has an obligation to the community of which we have chosen to be a part" speaks volumes about the nature of true commitment to these principles.

On Jan.11-13, more than 120 members of the campus communty took a course of action that demonstrated their true commitment. I encourage all members of our community to seek out intercultural activities, classes, workshops, seminars, forums and events. For details about such programs and activities, contact the Office for Campus Community Relations at (530) 752-2071 or occr@ucdavis.edu.

Rahim Reed is associate executive vice chancellor for campus community relations. His columns appear quarterly in Dateline.

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Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932, abagronis@ucdavis.edu

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