The CommUNITY Education Program has a long and storied history. The program has been recognized by several offices and committees at Indiana University for its excellence. It has also been recognized as a model program by the American College Personnel Association. Several of the program's iniatives have also won recognition both locally and nationally, including Conversations on Race and the IU Day of Silence.
Piloting a New Program 1989
In fall 1989 the Department of Residence Life (now the Division of Residential Programs and Services) initiated a pilot program to address diversity related issues in Read Residence Hall. It involved hiring six undergraduate students who would serve in a Diversity Advocate (DAs) position. These DAs met on a weekly basis with a graduate supervisor and planned some educational programs related to topics of diversity (including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, and ability). They also looked for ways to engage students in day-to-day conversations on the importance of celebrating differences and creating residence hall communities that were more welcoming to all. The creation of the Diversity Advocate position was not meant to decrease the commitment of Resident Assistants (RA) to addressing diversity issues or awareness, but was meant to supplement it.
In spite of the fact that there was almost no budget for this program, these six pioneer DAs met with enough success during the 1989-90 academic year in Read that it was decided to expand the program into Forest, McNutt, and Briscoe Residence Halls for the 1990-91 academic year. This meant a total of 24 DAs, six in each of the four centers. Again, the program met with enough success that, for 1991-92, Collins Residence Hall was added. It was about this time that IU received a grant from the Lilly Foundation that in part allowed us to expand the program into all ten undergraduate centers (Eigenmann Residence Hall was all graduate students at the time and was not included). So, beginning in the fall of 1992 and running through the spring of 1996, there were a total of 58 Diversity Advocates, six in each undergraduate center except for Collins (a smaller Living Learning Center/Residence Hall), which had four.
With the pending expiration of the Lilly Grant the program was significantly re-evaluated and eventually restructured for the 1996-97 academic year. Many factors played in the decision to restructure. The central issue was finances, which impacted the program in two ways. First, while the major funding source was being eliminated there was also a need to drastically increase the pay for these peer diversity educators. Because the pay was considerably less than that of the RAs, the CUE position was viewed by many as a stepping-stone to being an RA. CUEs leaving the program to be RAs and moving out of the halls made staff retention very difficult. Second, because the financial incentive was not there to retain students, the DA candidate pool consisted of mostly first- and second-year students, which make up the majority of our resident population. Many of these students were passionate about diversity issues but were not yet at a developmental level where they felt comfortable providing the appropriate level of challenge that other students needed to support their growth process.
When Willkie Residence Hall was closed for renovation in 1997, a CUE was placed in Eigenmann which then shifted from a majority graduate student population to a undergraduate population. During 2000-01 an eleventh CUE was added to serve Willkie.
In spite of the changes over the years, the CommUNITY Education Program remains a unique and vibrant feature of the residence hall program at Indiana University. The several hundred students who have served in the capacity of DAs or CUEs have made a mark on the lives of residents and the general climate in the residence halls. The CommUNITY Education Program has also shaped the future of its staff. More than a handful of CUEs and graduate assistants have gone on to work with Teach for America, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps. Others have continued in this line of work completing master's degrees and Ph.D.'s in student affairs with emphasis on diversity education and minority affairs.