At times, Wesleyan’s affinity groups seem to exist in separate spheres. This is somewhat troubling not only because many of these groups are concerned with issues that affect other groups, but also because large-scale programming around these issues is a monumental task that could be made more manageable if there was more inter-group collaboration. For the past two years, at the end of Latin@ Affirmation Month, Ajúa Campos has sponsored a Unity Dinner with other activist groups in order to foster a dialogue about how to best collaborate with other groups and support each other’s missions. This year’s dinner, which was attended by about 40 students from various groups, was co-sponsored by WISA, Ujamaa, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Shakti, VSA, ASA, Mix, Women of Color House, and the Student of Color Coalition Intern.
Some of the questions we discussed included: How can we promote relationships between the various affinity groups on campus and support each other’s events, programs, and meetings? What should that collaboration look like? How can groups reach out to people who may not feel they are welcome in certain groups?
When discussing solutions to the issue of fragmentation among different affinity groups, some cited limited knowledge of each other’s objectives as possible barriers to co-programming. Others emphasized the importance of actively supporting each other by attending each other’s events and meetings rather than just being on each other’s listservs. Many people also stressed the importance that groups have a mutual awareness regarding programming so as to not conflict with each other’s events and force attendees to choose between affinity groups. Perhaps programming calendars, electronic or otherwise, could be shared between different groups in order to address these concerns.
When discussing mutual interests between campus groups, promotion of activism, awareness of social justice issues affecting specific communities, and honoring the legacies of affinity groups on campus were the most commonly shared causes. One of the most innovative strategies suggested to achieve these objectives collaboratively was an inter-affinity group collective, with representatives from various campus organizations, which would meet every so often in order to discuss community issues and carry out inter-affinity group programming. Such inter-affinity groups have indeed existed previously at Wesleyan, during the 80s and 90s. Recently, efforts have been made to revive the Student of Color Coalition (SCC), a group intended to build bridges between different affinity groups and share resources and foster dialogue. The UOC has also been organizing around similar issues. Perhaps liaison-building objectives and positions could be worked into group boards and roles.
In reflecting on this issue of collaboration and unity among affinity groups, it is also important to note that this not only a concern for affinity groups, but also a greater campus issue. This is not to say that there is no successful inter-group campus programming, but rather that we can all benefit from more collaboration and unity efforts in order to spread knowledge about our various causes and serve our missions more effectively. We hope that student leaders will reflect on this issue and reach out to other groups when programming and support each other’s endeavors.