STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - Penn State officials and students came together for a diversity forum Thursday night on campus. WTAJ News went to the forum, and found that while the groups that put it together are different, they all want the same thing.
The forum was put together by the Penn State Student Black Caucus, the Asian Pacific American Caucus, and the Latino Caucus. But the big name in attendance was school President Rodney Erickson, who was ready to relate straight to students.
"...This is really to learn how we can learn from each other and work with each other..."
With Rodney Erickson front and center, Penn State students of different colors coming together to voice their concerns about racial insensitivity on campus. Ryan Brown is the President of the school's Black Caucus. He says it's been going on for years, and he's seen the bigotry first hand.
"...Individuals are portraying someone else's culture, as it is a costume. Some racial slurs thrown around campus, issues like that have continued to escalate this to the point where it pretty much exploded last semester."
Last December the sorority Chi Omega posed for a picture dressed in ponchos and sombreros. PSU Latino Caucus President Ariel Coronel remembers how she felt when she saw the picture.
"I was angry, I was frustrated. It wasn't a good experience. However, I kind of honed down and I had to focus and take action."
Students voiced their opinions out loud or anonymously by writing it down on a card to be read by their cultural representatives.
Questions and comments ranged from retention rates to racial equality. The goal was to identify the problems, and work on a plan to solve them.
Coronel says the turnout, and President Erickson being front and center, helps teach a lesson.
"Essentially my culture isn't a joke... Never was, never will be. And that's just something that we can grow out of and learn from."
Students stressed that the forum wasn't just about the Chi Omega picture. But rather that was just the straw that broke the camel's back. We asked President Erickson what he thought when he saw the picture... He simply said it was "Objectionable".