MULTI Affinity Group Restarts to Build Community for Multiracial Students

Editor’s Note: Production Editor Arman Luczkow was uninvolved in the reporting or editing of this piece. 

The Multiracial Students Association launched this semester with hopes of creating community for multiracial students as well as facilitating discussions with the rest of the campus. Oberlin previously had a similar organization called Multi- that disbanded two semesters ago. The group created this fall, also known as MULTI, has an entirely new student leadership, but seeks to build on lessons learned from the previous organization. 

The new organization uses consensus-based decision making and compromise to better support multiracial students. According to MULTI treasurer and College second-year Ben Eckols, the group currently plans to convene each week and will alternate between meetings only open to multiracial students and meetings that are all-inclusive.

Besides Eckols, other officers include two of the new MULTI’s founders and Co-Chairs, College third-years Arman Luczkow and Sophia Diez-Zhang, Conservatory third-year and Club Liaison Risa Beddie, and College first-year Neena Duphare. 

Affinity groups like MULTI have been integral in forming friendships on college campuses for decades, but they often don’t encompass the breadth of identity-based experiences that MULTI does.

“We’re very aware that what makes this organization different from other organizations is that multiracial is not one specific thing,” Diez-Zhang said. “[One of our goals is] to create a space where we can talk about our own lived experiences and be respectful, and listen to the experiences of others when they’re sharing, because we’re all coming from different backgrounds.”

For Eckols, what brings the club members together is a shared experience of not feeling a sense of belonging. 

“No matter how passing you are, whether you’re white-passing, Black-passing, whatever-ethnicity-passing, there’s always that feeling that ‘I’m not quite a part of this group,’” Eckols said. “But that probably is the only experience [of being multiracial] that I can think of that you can truly generalize.”

Diez-Zhang says that the club’s student leadership plans to build programming based on membership feedback.

“We may have book or movie discussions, we could have days where we have presentations if the students want to share something about their culture, and also maybe bring in a few professors or other speakers possibly,” Diez-Zhang said. “There’s a lot in the works.” 

The group’s current faculty advisor, Harrod Suarez, an associate professor of English and Comparative American Studies, says that the group’s resurgence is well-timed.

“The kinds of conversations we are having about who we are as a culture, community, and nation, especially in terms of race, can benefit from this organization’s programming, bringing attention to multiracial discourses and what they can contribute to antiracist organizing,” Suarez said. 

The group welcomes all newcomers, especially multiracial students looking to share their experiences. Students interested in joining can email [email protected] or fill out this application form