Activism seminar organizes day to wear mismatched shoes to promote campus diversity


It doesn’t matter how you look, where you come from or what you believe in — we are all the same.

This is the message that the new honors seminar, “Activism on ISU campus,” wants to convey. On Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 11 and 12, students from the seminar will be offering several campus activities to promote diversity.

“We came up with this class because I feel there is not enough activisms on American campuses,” said Jean-Pierre Taoutel, senior lecturer in world languages and cultures. “I wanted students to come up with ideas and organize something all by themselves.”

On Monday, Taoutel and his students will have a booth in front of Parks Library with a big slab of cardboard.

“We encourage students to write on the board what makes them unique,” Taoutel said. “You can write anything on there, like, ‘I am agnostic’ or ‘I am gay’ or whatever makes you unique.”

Taoutel said that the basic idea is that you can be whoever you want to be; there shouldn’t be any discrimination based on what you look like, what you do or who you are

“On Tuesday, we are asking people, students and staff to wear two different colored shoes,” Taoutel said. “The idea behind this is to say, ‘We don’t have to look the same to work well together.'”

Taoutel said he hopes that as many students as possible will participate. He encourages them to take a picture wearing mismatched shoes and post them on Twitter.

“You can follow us under @WeAreOneHon321 and post your pictures there,” Taoutel said. “Show us how you make a difference on campus.”

Taoutel believes that there are still problems regarding diversity and inclusion here at Iowa State.

“One thing I have experienced in America that I have never seen in France is the tables at lunchtime,” Taoutel said. “Nobody dares to sit with someone he or she doesn’t know.”

Taoutel said that he always sees students walking around with their trays looking for a free table.

“And there are still lots of tables with like four chairs but only one student sitting there. Why don’t they just call students up to their tables and engage a conversation, so that they can get to know each other?”

Another problem Taoutel sees is the exclusion of freshmen at Iowa State.

“You are always told not to show that you’re a freshman, otherwise people will look down on you,” Taoutel said. “’Don’t wear your high school T-shirt; don’t wear your red backpack; and shut up until you become a sophomore’ — isn’t that the very opposite of inclusion and diversity?”

Megan Carpenter, sophomore in family and consumer science education and studies, said that she participated in the class because she wanted to branch out more.

“I wanted to do something for my honors seminar that wasn’t just a class; I wanted to actually do something fun that also looks good on my resume; that’s why I attended this class,” Carpenter said.

Today’s society consists of people coming from various cultures. The seminar is designed to give people an eye opener on looking at how everyone is the same.

“I came from a really small town, where I didn’t see a lot of diversity,” said McKinsey Rodenburg, freshman in mathematics. “So, coming here and seeing all these different people can be overwhelming, and you really have to be careful that you don’t exclude minorities simply because you don’t know them.”

Taoutel said the potential of the class is not even closely expired.

“We wanted to combine our event with fundraising, but we couldn’t deal with the paperwork in time,” Taoutel said. “I hope that we can manage to turn this into an annual event with more event activities and an even stronger emphasize on diversity.”