Student Group's T-Shirts Challenge Stereotypes

April 19, 2007 -- The front of a football player’s T-shirt said, “Stereotype Me,” as if daring passersby. On the back, he had written, “I love Shakespeare’s sonnets.” Contrary to cliché, this football player was a distinguished major in English.

Breaking down common prejudices will be the theme at the University of Virginia on De-Stereotype Day — Monday, April 23 — when the group, Sustained Dialogue, invites students, faculty and staff to wear T-shirts with their own handwritten messages aimed at defying stereotypes.

Sustained Dialogue handed out 1,500 T-shirts this year. Almost half were distributed to other student groups, and members also contacted other students, faculty and staff. Last year, they handed out 1,000, and the organizers are asking those people to wear their T-shirts again. The goal is to prompt discussion about diversity and the impact of stereotypes on people's interactions.

At the end of the day, Sustained Dialogue will hold an event at 6 p.m. in Newcomb Hall Ballroom, free and open to the University community, with speakers and small groups discussing their experiences.

Sustained Dialogue is an organization dedicated to improving understanding of diversity, forging diverse relationships and increasing awareness about related issues on Grounds. Interested students form racially and ethnically diverse groups of 12 to 14 students, with two trained student moderators, and meet regularly to discuss diversity-related issues, build relationships and gain an understanding of perspectives that might have divided them. They then formulate and carry out some action to further the organization's mission. De-stereotype Day is one such action.

De-Stereotype Day 2007 has gained the following U.Va. sponsors: Arts and Sciences Council, Cultural Programming Board, Office of the Dean of Students, Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Equity, and the Vice President for Student Affairs Student Program Award.

For information, consult the Sustained Dialogue Web site.