The Block Party was a day to celebrate, doubly so, after a year hiatus from in-person interaction due to COVID-19 on Sept. 3. It was a day was a chance for clubs, academic departments, fraternities, sororities and organizations of all kind to connect with students on campus and make themselves known.
The Block Party had a hint of sugar sprinkled on top with an inkling of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, complete with a chocolate fountain and plenty of candy. “Weber is Your Winning Ticket” read a flyer for the event.
The day began with a longtime Weber State tradition: purple pancakes for breakfast at 8 a.m., just outside of the Shepherd Union in the Waterfall Plaza. As the day continued, more and more organizations set up shop in the union, plaza, grass and sidewalks stretching all the way down to the statue of Louis Moench at the main entrance to campus.
Ben Ferney, WSUSA Student Body President, stressed the importance of the Block Party as a chance for students to be social and feel a sense of belonging on campus.
“I think it is such an exciting opportunity, really,” Ferney said. “Being shut out, being on Zoom calls and all of the social distancing we’ve done. I think that has really affected student’s emotional health.”
Several tents at Block Party stood for the many student organizations focused on supporting diversity and minorities on campus.
“The Men of Color Initiative is a new tool for males because males are not staying in college, so we are hoping to help people become more connected,” said Monica Rodriguez, a representative for the Center of Multicultural Excellence. “We provide scholarships, academic guidance and help to develop leadership skills so men of color can navigate the higher education system.”
Tia Nero is diversity, equity and inclusion program coordinator, and wants all students to know that they belong at Weber.
“We have really good opportunities for everybody, including Caucasians, that want to develop skills or get to know more about what is the meaning and the component of diversity,” Rodriguez said.
At WSU, some organizations that focus on specific ethnicities to offer support, but none of them exclude students who need help.
“Our organization is mainly for Pacific Islanders, but anyone is welcome to join,” Finau Tauteoli, president of The Ohana Association, or TOA, said. “We focus on just connecting back to like our roots, whatever Pacific Island you are from. We want to help students trying reach a higher education.”
Race and ethnicity is just one form of diversity on campus. Politics is another. Between a life-size cardboard Trump on one side and Biden on the other sat the tent for the Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service, symbolizing a sometimes harsh divide the Institute aims to bridge.
“The political world has become very contentious,” said Becky Stromberg, an administrative specialist for the Walker Institute. “We are all about promoting being nice to one another. We are promoting having civil conversations with one another across the political spectrum.”
The university marching band and cheer squad ended the afternoon with fanfare, as the band marched through the sidewalks and plaza into the union. “It’s a fresh year, a new experience, and students should be excited for what’s coming,” Ferney said.
Editor’s Note: The ninth paragraph was a quote initially attributed to Tia Nero, diversity, equity and inclusion program coordinator, which was incorrect. The quote was actually a statement from Monica Rodriguez, a representative for the Multicultural Center for Excellence and has been corrected above.