Hispanos Unidos offers fun and inclusive atmosphere

By: Lydia Braswell

Bella Haraguchi’s dance skills are paying off.

The president of Hispanos Unidos taught a Latinx hip-hop dance class on Nov. 21 that represented the culture of the Purdue Fort Wayne club well.

“Dancing is what brings families together,” says the PFW sophomore, explaining that Hispanos Unidos is an inclusive campus club open to all PFW students– not limited to students of Hispanic heritage.

The environment of the fitness studio transpired that sentiment during the dance. Some who attended had a background in dance, and others– like me– had very little prior experience. All six of the dancers continually encouraged each other to keep going and focus on having fun.

Daddy Yankee’s song “Que Tire Pa Lante” played repeatedly from a loudspeaker as we practiced the routine for a total of two hours– including several much-needed breaks for water and fruit snacks. We had an ever-changing audience as students continually peeked their heads in to see what we were up to, and some even stayed to learn a section of the dance.

Libni Sedano attended the hip-hop class and loves to dance in her spare time. Rather than dancing professionally, Sedano learned from her family, as she says dancing is a key tradition for Hispanic families.

The PFW sophomore is majoring in finance and Spanish, and has been part of Hispanos Unidos for two semesters. She said she joined because she likes to be part of people sharing her cultural background.

Haraguchi says that, at parties, dancing isn’t really about getting a work out. The purpose is to feel connected with friends and family, especially in Hispanic culture – whether it’s dancing with a partner, a friend, or a group.

“You eat and then burn [the calories] right off!” Sedano says. “If you get hungry again, there’s more food!”

The Latinx teacher has a diverse background in dance. Starting for fun in elementary school, she began learning elite dance in a studio in middle school and continued through high school. She has competed in a variety of competitions, including ballet, jazz, contemporary, lyrical and hip-hop.

The 20-year-old has stopped dancing professionally but still does hip-hop dances, and her skills were evident as she taught the Latinx class with ease.

“I still love dancing a lot,” says Haraguchi. She also had a chance to teach in September– another Latinx hip-hop combo that was a fundraiser for Hispanos Unidos. The club president and chemistry major stepped up as a leader after the scheduled teacher of the class never showed up.

Teaching hip-hop is not the first time Haraguchi showed her leadership skills. When the soon-to-be-freshman was touring PFW in 2018, she found out that Hispanos Unidos would no longer be a club unless someone volunteered to be president and get students involved.

Haraguchi took on the role and has since been a leader for her club and for her campus.

Haraguchi volunteered to teach on Nov. 21, planning the event herself following the success of the last class. She hopes that those who attended learned more about dancing.

“Dancing doesn’t require much experience or technique,” says Haraguchi. “It’s about feeling the music and having fun with others.”

After fine-tuning our dance moves, we recorded the routine and it is posted on the Instagram page for Hispanos Unidos. None of us were required to be featured in the video, but after a little extra self-esteem boost for the more shy dancers in our group, all six who learned the routine agreed to be recorded. Once again, an encouraging atmosphere was fostered with the help of the Hispanos Unidos club members, and the attitude was contagious.

 

Carolina Baltazar has personally experienced the inclusive nature of the club.

Baltazar attended a private school for most of her education. Born in America and growing up in a family with Mexican heritage, Baltazar’s family speaks Spanish at home. She thought that going to a public school in third and fourth grade would allow her to feel more included after being in a private school with very little diversity, but even though she found a group of people to hang out with, she still did not feel fully accepted.

Baltazar says she thought people at the private school viewed her as a Hispanic girl who didn’t have high standards and acted “ghetto” with no manners. Her friends at the public school would tell her that she acted “white” and Baltazar could not find the balance between the two labels.

The PFW freshman says she was so excited to join Hispanos Unidos and finally be with a group that does not care about labels. “I’m with my people,” says Baltazar.

Baltazar hopes to be part of the club’s advertising committee to spread the word and form a stronger PFW community.

Haraguchi says future classes may be possible after the night’s turnout, with a grand total of 11 who signed the safety waiver and attendance forms. The free class was open to all PFW students and staff.

The Latinx hip-hop dance class was taught in the Hilliard Gates Fitness Studio, located inside the Hilliard Gates Sports Center, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 21 as posted on the Instagram pagefor Hispanos Unidos.

Anyone who wants to learn more about Hispanic culture and be involved in a group dedicated to inclusivity is welcome to join Hispanos Unidos.

Different nations of different stories

By: Tze Wan Goh

Purdue University Fort Wayne welcomes international students every semester, and while some students might be coping well with the new environment, others face challenges at some point during their stay in the United States.

The university is a diverse campus consisting of about 300 international students representing 51 countries from all around the world. As of the fall semester, around 80 to 85 international students were enrolled at PFW.

Among the many challenges and changes that international students have to go through, culture, daily habits, language and religion are some of the main struggles that they have to deal with during their stay in the United States.

Janice Kumala, the only international student from Indonesia, said that she faced homesickness and challenges due to the difference in weather when she first arrived in Fort Wayne.

Kumala, who is majoring in business marketing, came to the U.S. for better education in 2016 and has also experienced a difference in culture compared to her country. ““In the U.S., people are so much friendlier to strangers or to others in general, Kumala said. “It would be weird to say hi, back in Indonesia, but here it would be weird if you don’t say those things.”

Min Namgung, an international student from South Korea who is currently pursuing her master’s in computer science, also talked about some differences in culture. In her country, she said that people who are in the same major will sometimes have gatherings to get to know more about each other or build connections after classes.

“However, here, America, people do not care about each other even though they are in the same major, and do not have any gathering as a group,” Namgung said.

Namgung talked about some culture shocks that she experienced here in the U.S. Coming from a more conserved culture, she said she was surprised when one of her classmates talked about sex as a presentation topic whom later “gave a box of condoms to all classmates including lecturer.”

Not just culture, but daily routine is also somewhat different in the United States compared to what international students have in their countries. Namgung said that people back in her country recycles and separates their trash. She was shocked when she realized that recycling is not widely practiced in the United States.

“I did not know how to throw away my leftover food, and my friends just told me to throw away in the normal trash can,” she said.

Yi Mei Lam, an international exchange student from Switzerland who came to PFW during the fall semester, said that one of her main struggles was not being able go to places independently due to the low accessibility to public transportations.

“While the international office offered shopping trips, I missed having the independence to go wherever I wanted to whenever without relying on others,” Lam said.

Lam also struggled with the heavy workload that the university requires at first and had to get used to the consistency of assignments and tests.

Students also struggle with language when they first arrive in the United States. Namgung explained that even though she has her qualifications in English, it is different and more challenging in real life to take in the language.

Namgung talked about her experience with stereotyping that came from some of the international students while she was in the United States. “I would say it was from their ignorance of my culture, but they asked me if I did any plastic surgery ever or have eaten a dog. And they said they heard all Koreans did that,” Namgung said.

Kumala talked about the different religions in her country and Muslim is the most popular among other seven religions.“Although I’m not a Muslim, it is still different for me to not see a lot of Muslims,” Kumala said. She also said that she experienced culture shock from how early most restaurants or businesses close here and earlier during the weekends.

Both Kumala and Lam said that friends helped a lot in coping with the new environment, while Namgung said that she coped by copying others’ lifestyle and attitude.

Maureen Linvill, assistant director of the international student services, gave some tips and advice on how to cope with new environments. She said that students should get involved more on campus even though academics is the focus. Getting involved in student organizations or getting a job on campus helps with homesickness, Linvill said.

The office of international education provides different events throughout the semester, open to all local and international students and faculty to experience different festivals and cultures in the United States together. They also offer workshops and panels to help international students adapt to the new environment and educate local students about international cultures, religion, etc.

One of these events is “a day in their shoes,” held on Nov. 20, where everyone gets the chance to experience challenges that international students go through to study in the United States. Through the simulation, students who participated faced challenges like having their visa rejected, being rejected to entry at the border or problems with bank statements.

During the panel discussion, students and faculty gave advice to international students or those who plan to study abroad to be prepared in advance with all the paperwork, answers to give during a visa interview, the weather, etc. International students are advised to be flexible and open to new and different things.

Linvill advises students to not “stay in country bubbles,” which are groups of students who do not often get involved in meeting people from other cultures or local students. She also advises students to not hesitate to ask for help when needed.

“I feel like some students make assumptions and then find themselves into problems, maybe they didn’t take 12 credit hours or things that they have to do to maintain their status,” said Linvill.

“If in doubt come see me,” she said.

Campus Feminists in Solidarity—A Glance at Women’s Studies and Feminism on the Purdue University Fort Wayne Campus

College Activist Group—Challenges, Misconceptions and Overcoming Obstacles

By Moriah Weaver

The women’s studies and feminist activist group, Campus Feminists in Solidarity, had its first call-out meeting of the Purdue University Fort Wayne fall semester last Tuesday, Nov. 12.

The group seeks to create a community which can relate through common values regarding feminism and gender equality. They also hope to provide educational opportunities for students wanting to better understand the goals of the women’s studies program.

“Our goal is to provide a safe space for feminists on Purdue Fort Wayne’s campus,” said CFS president Shelby Thomas.

Thomas said the group strives to initiate discussions in which students do not feel held back in sharing what is on their mind regarding feminism-related issues. They are also particularly interested in helping non-feminists come to a better understanding of the movement.

“For me, when I think of feminism, I think everyone is equal. Men, women, people of the LQBTQ community, people of color, people with disabilities, everyone,” she said.

When speaking with Dr. Noor Borbieva, an anthropology and women’s studies professor at Purdue University Fort Wayne, she defined feminism as gender differences not creating inequality in and of themselves.

She also said that there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings associated with feminism and the women’s studies program. The most common she hears is that women are equal in our society.

“The kinds of harassment and dehumanization and tribalization that I see all around me, in the media, in what my students suffer…is troubling,” she said. “Not a semester goes by that I don’t hear horrific stories of gender oppression from my students.”

CFS treasurer Sam Schubert said that she has heard many false accusations regarding CFS, but the most troubling is that they serve no purpose.

“People think that we sit around and complain about stuff, but we don’t actually do anything,” she said.

Other misconceptions discussed by sources include that feminist group meetings are just “man hating sessions” and that the women’s studies program is useless in the academia environment.

It is likely that these stigmas contribute to many of the obstacles faced by CFS and the women’s studies program at Purdue University Fort Wayne. The group has dealt with repeated hostility from campus community in the past.

Thomas said that she had first-hand witnessed CFS posters being taken down by other people, one being a professor at the university.

The women’s studies program has also run into issues like this, almost being removed from the university as a major in 2017.

Professor Borbieva said that she saw someone had graffitied negative words about women’s studies on one of the department’s posters just the day before our discussion.

“It took major student mobilization to preserve women’s studies,” she said. “It’s a constant battle.”

Thomas said that when the program was under threat, the women’s studies students came together to advocate and petition for its protection. This led to a change in decision from the university to keep women’s studies as a program for students.

Professor Borbieva said that women’s studies are valuable courses for students—their goals being for women to understand the challenges they face, for students to be educated on the workings of power more broadly, to foster in students a commitment to activism, and to empower students and help them understand the workings of power in their own lives.

It is these principles which are enforced by Thomas and other CFS members. They hope to further interact with the Purdue University Fort Wayne community throughout the rest of the fall and spring semesters.

Next steps for CFS includes the start of a feminist book club and what the group calls, “The F Word”, in which women’s studies affiliated faculty is interviewed and explains how their research relates to feminist ideals. They hope to have these started before the end of the school year.

Schubert said that the group also hopes to get connected with other Purdue University Fort Wayne clubs and organizations to work together in hosting events for students.

“People need to come together with people who share their views, that’s where you find power. That’s where you find affirmation and you can feel good about who you are as a person and get through social connection with other people,” said Professor Borbieva. “That’s the joy of being a human, what else is there?”

LGBT+ student center opens on campus

By: Brandon Blumenherst

As the new strategic plan for the future of Purdue Fort Wayne is defined, one of its main focus is to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion. A new center on campus provides a better visual reference of the campus becoming a more inclusive place.

The LGBT+ Resource Center opened in early October in Walb Student Union on Purdue Fort Wayne’s campus.

The center serves as a space for students to hang out and study, but also serves to be a “first-stop shop” for people with questions about the LGBTQ community, said Jordan Sanderson, coordinator of the Resource Center.

“We wanted a safe space for students, but we also wanted to educate people,” Sanderson added. The center hosts multiple workshops throughout the year on various topics related to gender identity, sexuality, and LGBTQ history. The Center also has a small library filled with LGBTQ literature.

Sanderson said that the center is usually full of students either swinging by between classes or studying in the back room. However, he was somewhat surprised by the amount of people who decided to visit the office. “I didn’t expect people to come in so frequently with questions,” said Sanderson. He added that many of them were not a part of the LGBTQ community, but they were “so willing to learn, which is something we don’t see very often.”

The center opened just prior to the Strategic Planning Committee sending out a campus climate survey focused on embracing diversity, equity and inclusion. Sanderson believes that the survey is a step in the right direction and more research is needed on the campus climate to identify needs within the campus community for LGBTQ students and staff.

“With 19% of the freshman class identifying as a part of the LGBTQ community or preferring not to answer, there is a significant part of our student population who could utilize this center,” Sanderson said. Although the center is open to everyone, the demographic justification added to the need for a student center after years of having various LGBT+ groups working to represent students on campus.

Hugo Mata, a student who frequently visits the Resource Center, said that the Center is a great place to provide a safe and affirming environment for LGBTQ students and he is spreading the word about the Center.

“Whenever I meet someone in the [LGBTQ] community, I tell them about the office. It’s usually just by word of mouth that I’ve seen more students come to the office,” Mata said. In addition to word of mouth, some students stop in after walking past the office.

As one walks through the hallway, the office emanates rainbow light from the signature Pride wall and all of the rainbow décor within. The walls are adorned with pictures of LGBTQ icons including Sharice Davids, a United States Senator from Kansas, and Billy Porter, a fashion icon and activist.

Vic Spencer, the Center’s director, explained in an email that their current priorities are “to elevate the visibility of both the Center and our LGBTQ population.” They said that the center plans to “expand [the center’s] programming” to include other aspects of LGBTQ health, history, and advocacy activities.

A 2019 Human Rights Campaign report, the Municipal Equality Index, also recently rated Fort Wayne with a score of 40 out of 100. This report is “based on its laws, policies, and services of municipalities on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBTQ people.” Out of nine cities scored in Indiana, Fort Wayne had the worst score. Terre Haute scored 42, while other major cities like Indianapolis and Bloomington scored 89 and 100 respectively.