Irfan Bashir ’19 wins antiracism student video contest

When Irfan Bashir ’19 heard about the University’s antiracism video contest, he knew it was something he had to attempt.

Never mind that he had never made a video in his life.

“I had to try,” said Bashir, a computer science major from Kashmir, a conflicted region between India, Pakistan, and China. “I wanted to show that although this is a diverse campus, racism does exist. But together, we can stop it.”

The result is a three-minute video called “Meliora” that features University students of different races and nationalities holding signs with phrases that illustrate the multiple cultures and ethnicities found on campus.

Bashir was announced Thursday as winner of the video contest, capturing a clear majority of the 6,663 votes cast in week-long balloting among the University community.

The contest was organized by a campus working group that was established to raise awareness about and to combat racism. The committee is an initiative of the Commission on Race and Diversity, a University-wide group appointed last fall by President and CEO Joel Seligman.

WATCH BASHIR’S VIDEO, “MELIORA”

The contest asked students to produce a video that focused on the issue of racism on campus and how best to fight it.

Bashir received a check for $500 at Hirst Lounge in Wilson Commons during a ceremony to celebrate the University’s Communal Principles. His video will be used in the antiracism committee’s marketing campaign.

Runner-up Michelle Ikediobi ’19, a Houston native studying business marketing, received $200 for her video, “What Is That?”

Bashir’s video was produced with help from his Sigma Beta Rho brothers, Harris Ackermann ’16, Christopher Sardi ’17, and Teron Russell ’18. For most of the video, there are no spoken words, just messages about diversity on white poster boards held by students.

“I wanted to communicate in the most simple of terms, and for even those who can’t hear,” Bashir said. “So I used signs that people could read.”

Beautiful shots of the Eastman Quadrangle and Rush Rhees Library are interspersed with photos of diverse students.

The video’s final 30 seconds are devoted to students from countries including Bangladesh, China, Colombia, and the United States saying the antiracism committee’s slogan, “We’re Better Than THAT,” in their native languages.

“Finding diverse students was the easiest part of the whole thing,” Bashir said.

The video offers suggestions for ending racism on campus:

“By raising awareness.”

“By acknowledging and respecting differences.”

“By confronting micro-aggressions.”

“By getting involved.”

It closes with the words “UR Meliora: Ever Better.”

Cochaired by Beth Olivares, dean for diversity initiatives, and Norman Burnett, assistant dean and director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs, the committee meets weekly with senior administrators, staffs, and students representing several organizations.

Olivares stresses that the video contest is a small component of an ongoing, larger effort.

“It’s but one way of gathering awareness and gaining student involvement in the ‘We’re Better Than THAT’ campaign,” she said. “The committee will be making a series of recommendations to Dean (Richard) Feldman and the commission within the next few days.”

One endeavor is that all incoming students will complete a common reading that will provoke discussions on race and racism, followed by small group discussions as part of the One Community orientation event.

The committee’s vision statement reads: “Racism and hate speech have no place at the University of Rochester. We aspire to be a community whose members are equally valued and respected.”

For more about the committee, and to watch all the video contest finalists, visit rochester.edu/better-than-that.