Showcasing diversity on Iowa State’s campus at DIS

The Tree of Oppression Booth, stationed in the middle of the MU commons, encouraged students to make their own chains using colors to represent themselves during the DIS Late Night.

Willa Colville

Every person has their own unique personality. With over 35,000 students at Iowa State, there are thousands of different identities. This weekend, at Destination Iowa State, one booth was set up to give students the opportunity to celebrate their identity.

Leland Smith, Vice President of the Alliance for Disability Awareness Club, helped run the booth at DIS. Smith gave props to Lilian Juma, who came up with the idea for the “Tree of Oppression” last spring semester.

“The idea for [the tree of oppression] came up last year because there’s not a lot out there for representing different identities,” said Smith.

Juma works as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Iowa State’s Student Government. After working with her committee all year, they came up with many idea to highlight Iowa State’s diverse campus. The Tree of Oppression is their first project of the year but the Student Government diversity and inclusion committee hopes to continue advocating throughout the year.

“The tree has caused some controversy on campus. Some are saying that it encourages an attitude of victimization,” said Juma. “But I believe it really gives students the chance to talk about their identities. This is really a chance for us to showcase our diversity on campus.”

At the booth on Friday, students were welcome to create a chain using different colored links to represent different aspects of their identity. For example, blue links were used to represent domestic violence. For some, gold links were used to show LGBTQIA+ while others used blue or red to represent this part of their identity. The choice was left to the students on what each color on their chain represented.

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, used red, white and blue links along with red, green and white links to showcase their identity as a Mexican-American.

“I think it’s great and it is important. When we talk about oppression people seem to make assumptions but the tree shows how we are all different and unique,” the student said.

All of the chains created at the booth have been moved for display by Parks Library. The colorful chains will hang from a tree by the library throughout the year as a reminder of Iowa State’s diverse campus, Juma said.