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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Diversity Can be a Challenge

May 29, 2008

The Bismarck Tribune (USA)
May 27, 2008

It shouldn't surprise anyone that college students from diverse
cultures have strongly held points of view that can conflict with
each other, especially when nationalism inflames an issue.

On an American school's campus, international students, as they're
called, sometimes have to be persuaded not to act out disputes from
their homelands.

Dickinson State University officials seem to have done well in
defusing a situation in which students from China became upset over a
"Free Tibet" bumper sticker, and a back-and-forth dispute between
students emerged. It wasn't violent, but a female student must have
felt intimidation when a group of Chinese students, seeing her bumper
sticker, surrounded her car.

Spring semester has ended at DSU, but international students are apt
to stay the summer rather than travel to their homelands. Amazingly,
of DSU's students, 400 of them are from 30 different countries.

"Free Tibet" has become a popular cause to the point of having
Hollywood stars seeking audiences with the Dalai Lama in his exile.

The spiritual leader has said he wishes Tibet could be autonomous.
China asserts vigorously that Tibet is indivisibly part of China.

When there are loyal, patriotic Chinese students in close quarters
with students of Tibetan background and their Nepalese sympathizers,
there are bound to be tensions.

The fortunate report is that mediating went on, and the director of
multicultural affairs is said to have been adept in facilitating
dialogue and learning. That's exactly as it should be.

DSU has been quite intentional in fostering internationalism. Its
Global Awareness Initiative has multiplied American students'
contacts with people from around the world and taken those students
to places far and wide.

Becoming a multicultural institution, DSU moved at a fast pace,
getting under way in 2000. It's had to deal with students' experience
of massive culture shock, language issues and now a conflict from
halfway around the globe.

The foreign students also have to learn about the U.S. concept of
free speech. If people want to have a "Free Tibet" rally that doesn't
disrupt the peace and learning atmosphere, they should feel free.
It's precisely the same permission as the Chinese students banding
together to design pro-China T-shirts, some saying "No" to the notion
of an independent Tibet.

DSU had the right idea in its global initiative, declaring as one of
is goals, "To foster the ideal that individuals can contribute to
world peace through education, understanding, tolerance and
interaction with people from other cultures."

Sometimes that's easier said than done, but the college, as always,
certainly will have another opportunity to teach multiculturalism
when students gather on campus some months from now.
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