U of Utah hosts ‘Wellness Beyond Whiteness’ health fair

The University of Utah hosted its annual wellness fair, but this year its focus was “wellness beyond whiteness.”

Wellness Beyond Whiteness took place virtually Nov. 11-13. The decision to focus on “whiteness” was made due to the “pandemic, unfurled natural disasters” and the “movement for racial and social justice” that all occurred this year.

The university’s website states that “it is important to consider what wellness means beyond the bounds of whiteness. Wellness, as it is often portrayed in industry and media, is narrowly defined and largely whitewashed, a portrayal that significantly impacts our BIPOC communities.”

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During the wellness fair, several live events were held. 

The first event was called “Check on U-Tah: Building Community through Bystander Intervention.” It covered how “biases, social norms, & everyday barriers (e.g., technology, distractions) perpetuate harm and prevent community support.” Students participated in conversation and “interactive practice” to address these issues. 

A faculty and staff panel consisting only of people of color discussed the fair’s topic, “wellness beyond whiteness.” Panelists included the University of Utah’s director of the Black Cultural Center, an assistant professor of ethnic studies, a university counselor, and the executive director of the American Indian Resource Center. 

A student panel was moderated by a member of the University of Utah’s Adolescents Coping with Experiences Study (ACES). The ACES study is an “investigation of the underlying developmental mechanisms that account for the relationship between childhood adversity and adolescent involvement in the juvenile justice system.” 

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As part of the fair’s “movement and mindfulness” segment, the Change Coalition offered guided meditations. The university’s Change Coalition provides “skill-building workshops” to the university to help students cope with the “systems of oppression [that] break us, isolate us, and exhaust us.”  

Meditations were narrated by students studying “critical race theory from a feminist perspective” and “mental health through the lens of intersectional identities.” One meditation focused on combating “fear, discrimination and violence” by “mindfully giving thoughts of loving-kindness to those impacted by these negative spaces in our society.”

Vice-Chair of the Utah Federation of College Republicans Seodam Kwak told Campus Reform that the “Center for Student Wellness is a great campus organization/division that provides valuable resources to our students. They definitely have a duty to promote both mental and physical wellness for ALL of our students.”

“Utah College Republicans fully recognize that students from other cultural backgrounds have different ways of defining and viewing wellness. Throughout these hard and unprecedented times, we affirm that the wellbeing of the student body is the utmost priority, and we support the university’s efforts in ensuring the wellness of every community on our campus. However, we believe that every community’s state of wellbeing is of equal merit and labeling one group’s approach to wellbeing as racist and discriminatory is extremely harmful,” Kwak concluded.

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