Caius' Diversity Day on Saturday will be the first of its kindLouis Ashworth

“Diversity isn’t really explored in the same way in a college space… there’s not really an active effort to embrace the difference that [colleges] have,” says Reiss Akhtar, President of Gonville & Caius JCR and organiser of the college’s first ever ‘Diversity Day’.

Caius Diversity Day, which will occur on Saturday evening will be the first of its kind, hosting a variety of culture societies who will “showcase art, literature, food and dress from around the world”.

The event’s Facebook page states its aims are to “create a forum for discussion and understanding on a platform that will reduce the disconnect between culture societies, College spaces and members of the University that have not had the chance to navigate identity in either of these spaces.”

Akhtar said he was inspired to set up the Day due to the “incredible discussion groups” and “reassuring spaces” he had experienced with University-wide cultural societies, and his experience in JCR politics.

“People don’t ask the same questions, people engage with topics in very different ways. In most cases, it’s never out of anything malicious.”

The ‘diversity’ aspect of the Day will predominantly reflect ethnic and cultural diversity, which is in response to the way that colleges tend to deal with the issue.

“Having gone to a secondary school that was predominantly South Asian, and a sixth form that was predominantly black and South Asian, for me diversity is a lot more to do with how you talk about identity.”

Akhtar wants colleges to engage better with the issue: he believes the conversation should extend beyond getting disadvantaged groups into Cambridge, to also helping them once they are here.

He added that Caius have been supportive of the initiative: “I expected it would be a lot of hassle… but immediately they were like let’s do it.”

“[Colleges] need to open up different routes of discussion with the JCR and MCR, BME officers and Access officers… and ask what can we do for students that are here now.”

“[But] just knowing that the college is willing to make the space is a comforting first step.”

Alongside keynote speakers such as model and journalist Simran Randhawa, Caius Diversity Day will also be hosting a workshop run by Acting Now. The workshop’s director, Marina Pallares-Elias, has previously worked with refugee, LGBT+ and other marginalised groups.


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The event has seen immense student support: tickets have sold out. Akhtar said that student willingness to help out with the day is a “testament to the fact that having just a fun, informative space for that kind of discussion is needed.”

He said that he hoped the day would “become something that isn’t just paid for by the JCR and proposed by the JCR, but is the result of discussion between the college and JCR.”

He added: “I think it’s important to recognise that I don’t see this as a corrective means to issues…I just think that it’s a meaningful step to the right kind of conversation.”

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