UCF students discuss acceptance and diversity at SGA event

Photo by Alyssa McComb. Panelists Juliana Pisculli, Katherine Villalona and Rawan Almousa discuss issues facing minority students at SGA's Minority at UCF event on Oct. 19. The discussion was part of Diversity Week 2016 , which is hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Snaps, laughs and sighs of distress came from the crowd of nearly 50 students who attended the Student Government Association’s Minority at UCF event Wednesday night.

Faculty and administration diversity at UCF, the importance of minority clubs working together and recent political events were just some of the topics discussed among a panel of five UCF students and the audience. The event was part of Diversity Week 2016, which is being hosted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Moderated by SGA’s Diversity Initiatives Specialist Marklyne Joachim, a junior majoring in radio-television, the panelists for the night were: Snigdha Ila, Isaiah Pugh, Rawan Almousa, Katherine Villalona and Juliana Pisculli.

To open the discussion of diversity within UCF, Joachim asked the panelists what their experience has been like as a minority student at UCF. Each of the panelists agreed that the UCF community is generally accepting to minorities.

“Here at UCF my experience has been very inclusive,” said Almousa, a health sciences major.

Some panelists, however, had negative stories to share. Ila, who is the vice president of Sangam, UCF’s Indian Student Association, spoke about common questions she receives on religion, language and culture.

“I want to think that people just don’t know certain things,” Ila, a senior biomedical sciences major, said. “I want to give them the benefit of the doubt … but we are at the college level, and there’s a certain level of education that’s expected to come with that.”

Recent UCF events where discrimination was present were discussed. In April of this year, UCF police evacuated the library in response to student’s calls of a Muslim student falsely accused of having a gun. In October of last year, an incident occurred where two black students had garbage thrown and dumped on them, Joachim said.

“I feel like a lot of hatred comes from not understanding each other and not being sensitive to each other,” Pisculli, who was there to represent UCF’s LGBTQ+ Services and Pride Commons, said.

Pisculli, a freshman education major, suggested education as a way to combat discrimination against minorities. Much like UCF’s AlcoholEdu online program, Pisculli and others agreed that a required online module for incoming students would educate and prepare students on minority issues.

“I know education is key,” said Pugh, a sophomore computer engineering major and membership chair for the National Society of Black Engineers. “We’re behind every person, no matter what they look like, no matter what they believe in. We will not tolerate behavior like this whatsoever.”