Southern Cross University students express their view on campus lifePublished 18 May 2004
Launched on May 17 by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise and International), Professor Angela Delves, the Student Talk-Cultural Diversity at University project sought the views of 15 Humanities and Cultural Studies students from a diverse range of backgrounds including an Aboriginal woman, international students, gay students, a woman who is deaf, and a student who is a grandmother of 12.
The students were asked to express their perceptions of a university, how the social spaces at SCU affected their sense of belonging, how the curricula offered represented their own experiences, what the learning environment was like and how they viewed the ideal university.
As expected, the responses were as diverse as the subjects but with some common themes.
Many came to the University with the perception of a dark, gloomy sandstone complex where lecturers and tutors would be “running around in robes” or a place “where the other people went…not a place where I would go.”
Their perfect university was universally seen as one which valued, promoted and embraced cultural diversity with equal access for all being its foundation stone.
Whilst primarily seen as a teaching resource for SCU, project coordinator Dr Ros Mills said the views – while not necessarily representative of the entire student population given the small sample size – could assist SCU in continuing to further develop a place of learning which sought to meet the needs of a very diverse student population.
“Some cultural groups felt they were under-represented in the learning experience and it is important to look at ways of addressing that but, socially, the University was seen as being very accepting and that is a good thing,” Dr Mills said.
“This project only dealt with a small group of students from Humanities and Media programs, so while the views expressed can make a difference to how we teach in these particular areas there would need to be a much broader study done before we could really say that the comments were indicative of the views of the entire student population.
“And that is why we hope to encourage more students to express their views through an interactive website which has been developed as part of the project.
“By giving these students a chance to express their views we hope it might act as a talking point to encourage other students to talk about their own perspectives.”
Dr Mills said the project followed a previous cultural diversity study from a staff perspective and she hoped that eventually a series of studies could be done focussing on individual cultural groups within the University community.
Professor Delves said the project was an important educative tool which would assist the University to better understand the hopes and aspirations of its students.
“While we cannot be all things to all people what we can do is seek to create an environment which gives every student the opportunity to immerse themselves in a rich and varied learning environment both educationally and socially.”
The project was funded by the Higher Education Equity Project at Southern Cross University.
Students wishing to express their own views are encouraged to visit the interactive website at http://hmcs.scu.edu.au/culturaldiversity2004/
Photo caption: Pictured chatting following the launch of the Cultural Diversity project are Pro Vice Chancellor Angela Delves (back) and (front from left): Chinese student Xin Huang, Indigenous student Janice Slater, the Deputy Chancellor Liz Rummery and Anna Seymour, a student with a hearing impairment. All three students appear on the CD expressing their thoughts.