While senior and President of AAINA Iman Ghosh looks forward to I-Fair each year, she wishes that events celebrating cultural diversity were more common at Knox.
“I really enjoy I-Fair but it feels like a one and done sort of thing,” Ghosh said.
Junior and AAINA member Nimay Ravi said that the event feels separate from the campus as a whole. This, he continued, could be remedied by normalizing intercultural events year-round and getting the entire campus more involved in I-Fair.
“I think it’s like a small circle of people who are involved in I-Fair,” Ravi said. “Like it’s supposed to be a Knox College tradition or whatever but it really feels like you see the same faces every year. All the international students always go to it . . . Some domestic students come to support their friends and so on, but I could say that I don’t think there’d be more than 300 people, 400 people there.”
Like Ravi, sophomore and Japanese Club member Hana Miyabayashi noticed a lack of American students involved in the festivities.
“The most people who came to cultural booths are people outside of Knox, so I would like to make I-Fair [a] more student-involved festival,” Miyabayashi said. “Because most of the I-Fair stuff is done by international students and the few American students [who] join in this I-Fair. So yeah I want to get more students from the U.S. involved.”
Sophomore Misha Zahid, who emceed the Cultural Showcase and performed with AAINA, expressed disappointment with the low attendance of events in the week leading up to I-Fair. Zahid believes that more emphasis on collaboration with domestic students could help to resolve the issue.
“It just seems like everything that is done at I-Fair is like ‘come and join us’ and that’s about it,” she said. “You come join us in this thing we’re already doing. It’s not like all of us coming together. Even the I-Fair performance is like us performing for peopleÑI guess everyone on campusÑbut it seems like it’s for everyone else and not coming together.”
International students have tradionally been responsible for putting on I-Fair. While this autonomy is beneficial in many ways, it can also lead to international students feeling overburdened.
“It’s really great that Knox offers such a big platform for the international students and it’s wonderful that we have this platform and it’s our space and we get to do whatever we want to do,” Zahid said. “But it would be nice to have collaboration with the domestic student population as well. Because if you really see behind the scenes at International Fair, you would see that the same culture clubs have the burden of performing, cooking, maybe even organizing the fair.”
Ghosh acknowledged that while more campus-wide involvement could be an improvement, it is important that I-Fair remains self-driven. She suggested that domestic and international students cook and eat together.
Senior and M.E.Ch.A. President Karla Medina Alamar agreed that there should be more intercultural dialogue in addition to I-Fair. Alamar believes that I-Fair is an important way for Knox to showcase the diversity of its student population. However, it should not be the only way that the school does this.
“There should be more dialogues and conversations to learn about students’ cultures,” Alamar said. “Because, basically, this is a display of all that we are. But honestly there should be more dialogues within campus where we can all learn from each other more and actually take that and see what resources these populations need or what needs in general there are for these students. So it’s a nice way to start off that but there needs to be more.”
The Day of Dialogue proposed by the Multicultural Student Advisory Council (MSAC) has the potential to increase intercultural dialogue on campus. Director of the Center for Intercultural Life Tianna Cervantez would like to see Knox move toward a culture of inclusivity and not just showcasing diversity.
“Our students need to be able to see themselves represented inside and outside of the classroom,” Cervantez said. “I think sometimes for students of different cultures, from different backgrounds, the only way they’re seeing themselves reflected is when we have events like [I-Fair]. And so how do we expand on that?”
As part of I-Fair last year, AAINA collaborated with other cultural clubs to host Mela, a springtime celebration. The carnival, which took place in the Lincoln Room, featured music, dancing, food and activities. Ghosh would like to see more events like this.
“I think for that to be normalized, for it to be a big thing that a bunch of clubs or one club does, and it not having to be around I-Fair time, I think that would be ideal,” Ghosh said.