40 Northwestern Students Protest Arizona Race Bill

This story was written by Ashley Lau, Daily Northwestern
As the sun beat down on Sheridan Road early Wednesday evening, about 40 Northwestern Universitystudents marched from Patten Gymnasium to Norris University Center, holding a banner with the word "unity" written boldly across the front. Carrying a megaphone, Weinberg junior Jesse Yang led the group in a series of chants as they walked as part of the second Unity Rally.

"I had this idea to have it again and sort of make it an annual thing to reinstate the presence of the minority community on this campus," said Yang in reference to last year's rally.

The first rally was organized in response to a Daily column in which alumnus Rob Jackman, Weinberg '07, stated that groups based on ethnicity or culture segregate the student body.

"It's a way of showing our solidarity in that we are an important group of individuals who have our own cultures, our own groups that we would like to have respected and valued," Yang said.

This year's Unity Rally was held in protest to Arizona Senate Bill 1108, which included an amendment that proposed to ban all "race-based organizations" and ethnic studies from Arizona public school campuses.

Yang, vice coordinator of For Members Only, and Weinberg sophomore Dulce Acosta-Licea began organizing the event a month ago when they contacted several student groups to join in support of the rally. FMO, Alianza, the Multicultural Greek Council, National Pan-Hellenic Council, Asian Pacific American Coalition and the South Asian Student Association were formally involved in the rally.

"We have these different cultures within our society and they're constantly being targeted and criticized and that should not be the case," Acosta said. "We should stand up for them and stand as one, because as one, that's how you make progress."

Rally attendees were asked to wear black as a sign of solidarity, Yang said.

"Black is a very strong color," he said. "It would be very recognizable and just black is a color that we can associate not necessarily with a revolution, but a protest."

After the group arrived at the ground level of Norris, representatives from several student groups and Asian American Student Affairs Director Tedd Vanadilok, Weinberg '99, talked about their personal experiences with multiculturalism on campus.

"I think there definitely needs to be that dialogue," said Weinberg sophomore Jocelyn Huang, incoming president of the Asian-interest sorority Kappa Phi Lambda. "The unity rally opens that venue for dialogue. The idea is that we're all going to come together for a common cause."

As students took the podium to talk about their thoughts and experiences as minorities, they spoke of a need to improve the status of multicultural student affairs on campus.

"I feel it's kind of like a mish-mash," Yang said of NU's diversity. "I feel that we have pretty decent numbers in terms of diversity, we have a high number of Asian Americans on campus, but our percentages of blacks and Latinos are not very high."

Vanadilok, who was formerly a member of NU's APAC, Taiwanese American Students Club and Thai Club, spoke last. Vanadilok was one of the students who pushed for the creation of an Asian American Studies Department at NU during the 1990s.

At the end of the event, students lined up to sign a petition against the Arizona Senate Bill 1108.

"In our day and age, a lot of people have this type of fatigue or apathy of activism in general, and they see no need in standing up for a cause because life seems great, everything's good because we live in a utopia," Acosta-Licea said. "But that's not the case. Although we are very fortunate to live in the U.S., there is still a lot of prgress to be made."

a-lau@northwestern.edu