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The Borough of Queens is often cited as the most diverse community in the United States, and Queens College CUNY reflects that diversity. Students trace their roots to 170 countries, and speak 110 different languages. Thirty five percent of students are the first in their families to go to college. Increasingly, there is no clear majority population on campus, and students are starting to identify themselves as multicultural, instead of as one specific demographic (Office of Institutional Research.)
While these demographics may seem unusual and unique now, they will not be for long. We are living in a country that has been moving towards increased multiculturalism. According to current demographic trends, by the year 2040 there will be no racial majority in the United States of America (Diversity Explosion p. 4.) In other words, sometime after 2040, the entire nation will most likely look something like Queens College.
If the entire nation might look like Queens College by the year 2040, then the college has a special mandate to serve as a “pilot for what is possible;” a model for what the country might look like if we learned to harness the power of our diversity for innovation and social change, rather than shying away from it and becoming polarized and disenfranchised. CERRU exists in order to work in partnership with the college to fulfill that mandate.
Who We Are
CERRU is a diversity education center that provides nonviolent communication tools to bridge social differences and create a more equitable society.
How We Do It
We use dialogue and undoing bias techniques to bring people together to discuss their views and listen to one another. Dialogue is a conversation in which people who have various and often conflicting beliefs, values, and perspectives listen mindfully to each other and ask questions to elicit more information rather than focus on making their point. They experience how to include differences, negotiate their social identities, find common ground, move forward with their own personal growth, and work with others to effect positive social change.
What We Do
CERRU works with students, faculty, and staff to create a safe, vibrant, and inclusive space for communication. We offer fellowships, dialogues, and trainings at Queens College. These activities prepare participants to become leaders equipped to navigate an increasingly multicultural society. We also host events exploring multiple perspectives on controversial issues, providing context, and opportunity for dialogue.
We host events open to the public, community trainings, workshops, and work with community members and organizations to develop programs that suit the population’s needs.
Why We Do It
We believe that cultivating the ability to listen in order to understand, even when we do not necessarily agree, can transform divisive debate into an opportunity for creativity and innovation. We also believe that in order to mindfully work with others, we must be aware of our own biases so we may work towards eliminating them.
CERRU is looking forward to expanding its reach in order to train more individuals. We are working to expand the fellowship program at Queens College, as well as to create fellowship programs on a variety of different college campuses, throughout CUNY and beyond. We are starting to work with other campus populations as well, and we aspire to act as a resource for entire campus communities in order to promote systemic change.
Each year, CERRU chooses a social justice challenge that warrants further community exploration and action. We engage experts in various fields with differing perspectives in order to help us delve into a rigorous conversation. It is always exciting to feel the energy of varying ideas and perspectives combining to create innovative pathways forwards. Past themes for the Innovation Exchange have included "New Frontiers: Innovation in the Middle East," "Muslims, Jews, and Catholics: Standing Together Against Climate Change," and "Black Lives Matter." Last year was our first Susheel Kirpalani Innovation Exchange, named after the Innovation Exchange endower. We brought in colleagues from across the political spectrum in order to unpack immigration. Groups broke out to discuss running for office, immigration advocacy on college campuses, and immigration policies throughout US history. This year we have focused on the #Metoo movement in a five part series which included several events such as "Teach-In: Experiencing Sexual Assault," the "Susheel Kirpalani Innovation Exchange," "Introduction to Gender Bias", a film screening on "Feminist on Cell Block Y," and "Transforming Queens College into a Sexual Violence Free Zone."
Who decides our identity? As we go through life, we struggle to negotiate our connection to group identities and the need to express our own individual identities. Often, society assigns us inaccurate or uncomfortable social identities on the basis of our backgrounds, skin color, or religious beliefs. In the Social Identity Fashion Show, students walk down the runway in two outfits: the first represents the assumptions that society makes about them. The second represents the identities that are most powerful and important to them.
Lunchtime 2.0 is an initiative aimed at redefining the way we think of college cafeterias. Campuses across the US are becoming more diverse; however, not enough is being done to provide a mechanism for diverse students to engage and listen to each other. At various times during the semester, CERRU takes over a section of the cafeteria to pair up QC students and engage in discussion and understanding. Past discussions have included "Everyday Heroes: Who do you look up to?," and "Charlottesville: What does it mean for the US?"
Our upcoming Lunchtime 2.0 is on December 4 at 12:30 PM to 1:30 PM at the Queens College Dining Hall. Students will engage in discussions about "Exploitation or Justified Capitalism: Incarcerated Firefighters and Amazon Tax Break."
Undoing Bias Fellowships
CERRU runs two competitive student fellowships, which are the backbone of the organization. Through these two fellowships, we mentor and train a next generation of leaders who will be operating in an increasingly multicultural world.
Race & Class
Racism, xenophobia, nationalism, Islamophobia, Antisemitism are all sources of inequities that affect our ability to treat each other as human through undistorted eyes. Often when we think of race, we view Black people as the single object of racist harm. This fellowship will take a semester to explore the ways race and class impact people of all races, including Black, White and People of Color.
The fellowship provides fellows a foundation for the following:
• How systems of racial bias were created in the United States
• The values of racist ideology
• Ways in which we as individuals uphold racist ideology and bias
• Ways the systems of race and class bias impact us and our relationships to self and others
Sexism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia are all sources of inequities and traumas that affect our ability to connect with each other and live an actualized life. Often when we think of sexism, we view women as the single object of sexist harm. This fellowship will take a semester to explore the ways in which gender and sexuality bias, impacts gender non-conforming people, women, and men.
The fellowship also provides fellows a foundation for the following:
•How systems of gender bias were created in the United States
•The values of sexist ideology
•Ways in which we as individuals uphold sexist ideology and bias
•Ways this system of gender bias impacts us and our relationships to self and others
Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding
Delany Hall 215
65-30 Kissena Blvd.
Flushing, NY 11367