Summer orientation leaders apologize to NASC
In April during an orientation leader training activity, in which groups of leaders were to take photos around campus in a limited amount of time, our group went to the Native American Student Center, among other locations. This activity instructed us to strike poses in the photos to indicate what happens inside the building. Our poses in front of the NASC were offensive to Native American culture. After this picture was posted on the Orientation Leader Facebook page with the rest of the photos, the issue was brought to our attention. We met with students and staff at the NASC, and we decided to reflect on our experience with the following.
The Native American Student Center was the final building on our list to visit and we were hurrying to finish. Our poses consisted of different stereotypes regarding Native American culture. We were in the wrong for not catching ourselves in the rush of the moment when such an important matter should have been addressed. We did not intend on being disrespectful, inconsiderate or offensive, but we were. I have learned many lessons from this mistake.
— Kyle Richards
We weren’t thinking about the consequences of our actions when we took that photo. And by not thinking, we created a lot of hurt. Just because it wasn’t deliberate doesn’t mean what we did wasn’t wrong. In fact, that might even make it worse. To the Native American students and faculty: I’m sorry for not thinking of the harm that my actions would cause. I’m sorry for perpetuating negative stereotypes and making cultural understanding that much more difficult.
— Clare Haley
I learned something that day, even though I wish I would never have had to be taught this lesson. What I do affects everyone around me. We made a misjudgment in our actions that day. I am trying my best to fix my personal mistake through this letter. We can’t take back what we did that day, but we can try our hardest to mend what we broke.
— Paisley Lukenbill
From this experience, I have learned that today’s outlook on many cultures is very stereotypical. Many young people have been given information on these stereotypes that lead to actions that may not be considered hurtful or disrespectful in their eyes, but are to those who are being represented. To the UI NASC, and all native students attending UI, I would like to deeply apologize for the misrepresentation and hurtful gestures that were presented by the group. I hope that in the future, I may learn from this experience and be able to better represent the UI NASC.
— Tracy Rountree
The important lesson is centered on individuals — people from every background, every phase of life, every culture and every religion. This isn’t just about what happened with the Native American Student Center, but every minority represented on campus. What we do with this experience is what is important. I think it begins with simple education, but it cannot stop here or the problem will remain. I hope that this incident opens doors for any and all individuals who have ever felt discriminated against to step out, be vocal, and be heard.
— Jane Miller
This letter was not required for orientation leaders to stay in the program, which held us responsible for our actions. Unfortunately, some orientation leaders chose not to take part in this letter. We have gained a greater understanding of stereotypes, and we regret the decision we made that day. We agree that we learned a very important lesson from it.