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“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

“A life without cause is a life without effect.”

Dear Readers,

There is some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that my proposal regarding the hate crime incident (read here) was actually seen by the lawyer or someway listened to because the administrative review and grievance procedures have changed (You can read the new one here).  Only small parts of our proposal/arguments were listened to but at least the changes are one small step in the right direction.  At least I can say and know that my efforts and persistence paid off.

The bad news is that this is my last post.  If anyone still wants their story published I will off course do so and if anyone wants to take the reins, I am more than willing to hand them over.

I hope this blog has been informative and helpful.  I also hope that I will not be judged to harshly.

Please check out the ‘Last Projects’ Tab above or by clicking here.  I have also put some links to articles I have written in that tab here:

1.  How to Ensure your Student Rights in a Foreign Country

2. Partial Lock on Tuition Idea

3. Having Vegetarian Options at the Caf

Best wishes to you in the next year and may you be at peace,

MD C

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As mentioned in earlier posts (click here), the Diversity Council at some point was intended to replace the SGA.  The smaller organizations were often getting the shaft and student concerns were often tabled or brushed aside.  But, within the DC, students and teachers were split on the topic.  A lot of people were tired of not being recognized and did not feel we could ever supplant the SGA.  They worried that no one would support us in that endeavor.  Others, myself included, felt that if we joined SGA we would never realize our potential; that we would be shackled to a meager or ineffective student government.  Worst of all, we would have to start playing by their rules.

Before we became part of SGA there was no one telling us what we could or could not do.  Yes, the school often denied us certain privileges and the administration would often hassle our supporters when they/we booked a room for an event.  But, the rooms always got booked and we held our events regardless.  We did not have to kowtow to the administration or SGA.  We did not have to report every single event we did to the Deans and SGA (which everyone has to do this now).  We could have as many faculty sponsors as we want and have whatever structure/mission we want.  Basically, we didn’t have to report to anyone or have fear of anyone looking over our shoulder.

However, when we decided to go ahead and become recognized by the SGA I made a mistake.  I did not stand my ground and form a good enough argument.  Plus, I had spoken with majority of the members of the Council and they wanted to be under SGA.  I wasn’t about to become like the SGA and find some way to brush it aside.

At the time all this was playing out we were working for recognition alongside BGLAM (Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians, Allies in Medicine).  Once Dr. Testa shared with them how to become recognized, they shared it with us and we applied for recognition under SGA.  When we went before the SGA we ended up being grilled by SGA members, even our own supporters.    People were worried that we were going to supplant SGA, that we were a political organization and they questioned our legitimacy.  It was funny since we had put on some of the most successful events and were the most active organization on campus, but we were still questioned for almost a half hour.  I did most of the talking and I suppose I was able to put forward a good argument because we ended up being recognized.

Getting recognition was definitely a victory for those of us who started the DC such as chanell, sana, moonmoon, binta, joe, dave, mike and myself.  We were really excited.  Unfortunately, the good feelings didn’t last because when we tried booking a room for St. Maarten day (a national holiday for St. Maarten, day off from school), we ran into the usual problems.  We were only allowed to use a certain minute part of the courtyard.  Plus, we were denied use of a lawn in front of the school, which no one ever uses especially on holiday when no one is at school.  Fortunately, we were able to get use of the lawn last second and we held the event.  After this, I knew even then that becoming part of SGA had been a mistake because it felt like nothing changed.

Perhaps becoming part of SGA ensured that the DC would continue after I left but I admit now that the DC of today is not the DC we created.  Not by a long shot.  For the first executive board and myself, the DC was the most important organization at AUC and we put a 110% into the organization.  Having watched the two executive boards that followed, I can say that progress is being made.  I can only hope that the DC will have more than just one meeting a semester and that it will once again become the most active organization on campus.  Mostly, I hope they continue to educate and discuss with students health disparities and cultural competency.

What do you think? Do you think the Diversity Council should have joined the Student Government??  Do you think health disparities or cultural competency is a big deal???

It was after class when the other founders of the DC (Diversity Council) and I got together to take over lecture hall 1.  We sat on the stage and began formulating our first plan of what we needed to do.  In essence, we wanted to change the school so that we felt more welcome, less alienated and less at odds.  Some of us had dealt with the school and were frustrated by the amount a bureaucracy enjoyed by a small school in the Caribbean.  To us, the most important characteristics for a doctor were respect and open-mindedness.  Few seemed to agree with us though and even fewer were willing to do anything about it.  However, for me, I realized how desperately AUC needed to change during my second semester in a lecture for Introduction to Clinical Medicine:

Imagine watching a teaching video where the point of the video is to teach students not to be a jerk to your patient, not to be dismissive and to truly listen.  The scene plays out where the young doctor is totally out of line with his older black patient and is condescending.  Now picture everyone laughing; laughing at what the patient is saying.  My colleagues were laughing at how the patient spoke, his accent and his phrases.  They were laughing because he was speaking in slang and apparently that is hilarious.

Another video clip we saw later that lecture, or the next I cannot remember, was about being respectful of different cultures/practices (aka cultural competency).  Again, students had a similar reaction to that of the first clip.  The clip starts off with a nurse complaining about how patients are doing the work of the “devil” and how the doctor must stop it.  They, the nurse, doctor and coworkers, go off to see what is afoot but before doing so speak to the patients daughter waiting at the patients door.  She tells them they are doing a Native American ritual and it will pose no medical problem to the patient, her father.  Regardless, the doctor looks in on the ritual briefly and comes out of the room.  He tells the nurse that it is nothing and that all is well.  The clip ends and the teacher changes topic while students behind me are saying, “God damned injuns,” laughter, “Yeh, like we’re going to see one of those”, more laughter.

It should go without saying that AUC is not the only medical school which suffers from this type of ignorance.  However, unlike a good number of American schools which have entire courses dedicated to this subject matter and certain states that dictate how “cultural competency” must be taught, AUC sprinkles the subject matter tangentially into its curriculum for a sum total of approximately 4 hours.  Furthermore, few teachers are willing to even teach on the matter let alone talk about it.  Issues of race, gender, culture, etc are like the black sheep of the AUC curriculum.  But instead of totally ignoring the issue, AUC’s administration and advertisers boast that AUC has a diverse student body and thus, is culturally competent.  If you don’t believe me, read the sign outside Dr. Yoshida’s office.

Now perhaps such ignorance has lessened or disapeared, or at least I hope it has, but I firmly believe that my colleagues and I played a part in the school’s progress.  When we first met together (me, dave, joe, mike and chanell) we wanted to change how the university and its students looked at ‘different’ and educate people to the health disparities our countries and communities have faced or will face.  Over the course of our inception we wrote two different course proposals, bought a movie series to educate students, started Culture Week and more.  We did this all without any support from the school or its administration.  However, as already mentioned, there were quite a lot of road bumps.  No one had started an organization for years at AUC, no one felt more organizations were needed, and no one knew how to start an organization.  It should be noted that Dr. Testa told me he did not know how to start another organization but months later he told Mike and Allison how to do so (they started BGLAM – Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians and Allies in Medicine).

In the face of these obstacles we decided on a three pronged plan; assess the student body’s view, get the word out about our new organization and build a coalition of support for the DC.  So we made a survey, passed out strips of paper in classes and in the rotunda (main part of the AUC campus) and I proceeded to meet with all the heads of the different organizations.  We approached the organizations already devoted to celebrating culture or religion such as SNMA (Student National Medical Association), MSA (Muslim Student Association), JMSA (Jewish Medical Student Association), IAPMSO (Inter-Asian Pacific Medical Student Organization, now ASMA), and CMDA (Christian Medical Dental Association).  All of them joined right away except CMDA who had reservations of a political nature.  After this we approached AMSA, AMWA and the honor society, all of which joined.  AMWA later pulled out before the first culture week/talent show because the DC was not in their best interests at the time.  AMSA joined after the first culture week.

The organizations joined because they wanted to work together, they wanted to be part of something bigger and we were all tired of SGA (the student government).  Organizations were angry about the money dispursements, how the richer organizations always got extra money, and how real issues at SGA were always tabled because Dr. Testa or whomever found the idea too dangerous.  Essentially, people felt like SGA was no longer worth their time.  As one teacher put it, “SGA is perhaps the most powerful tool students have and it is definitely muzzled, spade and neutered”.

As we collected surverys and we began to see such trends in our classes, we also quickly found that we weren’t going to get any support from SGA or the administration.  It was about this time that an idea of mine was seriously considered.  My idea was to have the DC also serve as an answer to the SGA’s corruption.  I felt that perhaps the DC could serve as another Student Government branch and/or replace the SGA.  Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way.

But what do YOU think??  Does the SGA work as it is supposed to??  Should schools put their money where their mouth is when they teach concepts like “professionalism”??

It has come to my attention that last month there was a meeting between the AUC  Administration (American University of the Caribbean) and officers of Student Government, the AUC Phi Chi chapter, and the Student Judiciary Committee in regards to this semester’s white coat hate crime and the complaint filed by a BGLAM (Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians and Allies in Medicine) member.  Interestingly, BGLAM officers were not invited to this meeting involving one of our own members. The administration proceeded to tell these students the results of the Administrative Review and what the Administration is going to do about the hate crime: have the Wellness counselor organize a NON-mandatory anti-hate seminar and appoint a task force to investigate a pilot course on ‘professionalism’.

Why was BGLAM not invited?  Why is it that the first official contact between BGLAM and its faculty advisor Dr. Testa/the AUC administration is two months after the incident? Please also note that AUC and it’s administration have yet to reach out to BGLAM or the LGBT community at AUC regarding the hate crime incident targeting one of BGLAM’s members.

Don’t be shy, speak up and leave a comment.

Hello all,

So here are the fruits of my labors regarding the hate crime incident at the American University of the Caribbean; BGLAM Hate Crime Prevention Proposal, the statement for the student body, and the statement for the student organizations (statements may change after organization revisions for grammar).  You should know that the statement for the student organizations contain all the facts including the administration’s response.  Even if you think you know what happened, take a look, because it is all the facts others and myself could come up with.  Additionally, you should know the response to this purported incident is far from over.

Currently, the situation is that few people have all the facts of this story. Furthermore, the 1st semester’s perspective has largely been withheld from the public.  The second biggest problem is that “the driver and the front-seat passenger remain unidentified”. According to the 1st semester before leaving, the student “pointed out”  their driver, provided the entire name of the driver and the first name of the “front-seat passenger” .  However, the administrative review could not ‘find’ solid evidence that the students in question were actually driving this car.   This renders the question of how much proof does a student need to prove another student committed a hate crime against them?

Don’t be shy.  Speak up and leave a comment.

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Purpose of this Blog

This blog is an account of past and present struggles at the American University of the Caribbean Medical School (AUC). My colleagues and I endeavored to make our Caribbean Medical School more progressive and supportive of all its students. We worked against an administration and student government to end marginalization of students and fight ignorance. When all was said and done, the administration at AUC claimed that they had single handily brought more diversity to AUC. It's time to share the whole story.

This is the story of those that fought for progress, stood up to AUC's administration/SGA and, just sometimes, won.

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