Last Thursday, the library played host to a small but diverse group of students who gathered to discuss various cultural issues, such as conflicting cultures in life at Tech. The mood was very comfortable and mellow, a perfect environment for such a serious discussion.
Hosted by La Unidad Latina, also known as Lambda Upsilon Lambda, a Latin American fraternity on campus, the event was comprised of a diverse group of student leaders representing many segments of the Tech population. LUL aimed for a small but intimate setting where campus leaders could gather to discuss the issue of finding one’s identity in such a homogeneous cultural environment.
The leaders of LUL, Michael Boyce and Andres Rodriguez, led most of the conversation, but the discussion definitely had its own flow due to the enthusiasm of the students who attended the event.
The brothers of LUL expressed the necessity of holding the event, especially after they discussed so many of the topics within the group. “A lot of issues [were] discussed…and we wanted to bring [awareness] to other groups on campus,” said Andres Rodriguez, a third-year Mechanical Engineering major and brother of LUL.
Many of the topics came from the experiences of multicultural students who find it difficult to balance life in America with their own culture. Often, peer pressure or family pressure can force students of different ethnicities to make a choice concerning whom to associate with and if they are in or outside of the individual’s ethnic group. Sometimes there can be no “in between” choice.
During the discussion, students talked about how hard it was to fit in with people outside of their ethnic group and the different obstacles they needed to overcome to fit in. There even seemed to be some boundaries between people of the same ethnicity who were unable to speak the ethnic language.
Many of the obstacles that come up between different ethnic groups are a result of the lack of understanding and communication between the groups. Sometimes, there is an unwillingness to understand the other side.
A lot of discussion stemmed from the idea of a cultural conflict. “A common issue is [experiencing a] cultural duality…some are caught in the middle,” Rodriguez said.
Surprisingly for Michael Boyce and Andres Rodriguez, President and Vice President respectively of Lambda Upsilon Lambda, many others shared the same experiences.
“A lot of people have the same situation. When they travel back to their country, they are [referred to as] American. When they travel back [to the U.S.] they are called Colombian or Mexican,” Rodriguez said.
Some students also discussed the derogatory names that people from their own ethnic group called them, such as Oreos or Twinkies. These degrading names sometimes come up when they are associated with other ethnic groups. There seemed to be a wall between groups that if crossed by an individual would result in alienation.
At the discussion, both sides (the ones rebuking and the ones being rebuked) shared their experiences with this kind of misunderstanding. The discussion led to a common understanding between the two sides. The pressure to fit into a certain mold came from most ethnic groups.
“[Some people believe there is] a checklist of requirements to be Latino,” Rodriguez said. This sort of checklist seemed to turn on a light bulb, as most people recognized a similar sort of experience where they too used a checklist or were check listed. The talk ended on a note of contemplation and understanding. Understanding was promoted as the take-away from the event.
A general sort of consensus was achieved in people who wanted to move towards a more understanding and united campus at Tech. The event that was originally scheduled to last an hour ended up lasting two. It was apparent that together everyone had struck a common cord.
Lambda Upsilon Lambda hopes to repeat it with future events to promote cultural awareness with other controversial cultural themes, such as dating.