BSA reaches out to campus, community to promote diversity

By Meredith Foster – [email protected] – Staff Writer

By reaching out to the Asheville community, the Black Student Association said it hopes to get the word out about multicultural student organizations and improve campus diversity.
“To help improve diversity on campus, we’re making connections with area middle and high schools so that they know that we are present here on campus,” said Erin Hill, BSA president.
By establishing their presence, the student organization hopes to attract more students of color, Hill said.
“I feel that if students of color are coming to view a prospective school, many times they want to feel as if they’ll be represented well,” Hill said.
UNC Asheville carries a reputation for its distinct types of people, but not necessarily for its racial diversity, said Abra Sickles, a senior and a member of BSA.
“As diverse as our school seems, I think the main reason is that UNCA lacks multicultural opportunities for future students of color. Opportunities such as having actual contact with other students of color that are active in the multicultural organizations instead of the normal walk through past the offices,” Sickles said.
BSA members said in order to increase the diversity on campus, the multicultural presence must be more upfront.
“How our campus is advertised by promoting diversity can be a bit misleading,” said Nicole Barnes, co-volunteer coordinator. “However, I do not think that there is necessarily a problem with diversity on campus, there is just a lack of interest in it from the student body.”
Improving campus diversity remains a hot topic among campuses across the country, with many different strategies.
“Just because we are the BSA doesn’t mean we know anything and everything on black issues, race or diversity,” said Yaw Amanfoh, a BSA member. ”We plan on incorporating knowledge through events on campus.”
Dispersing knowledge can only be effective if students come to hear it, BSA members said.
“To improve interest in diversity would be to gain more involvement from the student body and faculty and staff members at multicultural events,” Barnes said.
Multicultural events on campus come in many different forms. BSA recently had a discussion about the Cornel West book, Democracy Matters.
“For the discussion, the student make-up was either from BSA or Intervarsity, the Christian student group on campus,” Amanfoh said.  “There wasn’t anything wrong with that but it says something that the average UNCA student, not affiliated with a student organization, did not want to attend discussions on diversity.”
Connecting with resources off campus is another way to expand multicultural groups on campus, according to Hill.
“I know that the university has a strong presence and a certain amount of notoriety outside of the borders of our campus. The more partnering we can do with one another, the better,” Hill said.
According to Hill, BSA does their part to connect with the community by doing work with Shiloh Community Garden Center for their volunteer hours.
“Right now we are really focusing on our relationships with the communities outside of UNC Asheville. It’s important that the city of Asheville has a strong connection with the University,” Hill said.
Campus-wide diversity remains the goal of many student organizations, and just one of the many focuses of BSA, according to BSA members.
“As a group, our goal is to promote cultural awareness, political activism, community service and social unity by being welcoming and professional,” Amanfoh said.
BSA members said the group promotes social unity by providing a space of fellowship among students.
“I did not intend on joining BSA until I was approached by the president at the time, Kanydah Bellamy. She informed me on certain events done in the past and upcoming events,” Amanfoh said. “She insisted on me attending the first meeting, so I did, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Any student can be a BSA member. The club doesn’t limit itself to only black members, Hill said.
“Of course people of all racial backgrounds are welcome to join BSA, everyone is welcome,” Hill said.

Members of UNCA’s Black Student Association met this past Monday night in the Student Organization Suite. Photo by Harper Spires - contributing photographer.
Members of UNCA’s Black Student Association met this past Monday night in the Student Organization Suite. Photo by Harper Spires – contributing photographer.