The Diversity Conversation

This year, APU decided to make some changes in the name of diversity. Dr. Kimberly B.W. Denu was named chief diversity officer, a new position in the Office of Diversity. The Office of Diversity changed its name to the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence.

If conducted the right way, this could be huge for the university. When talking about diversity, often the hardest part is getting the conversation started.

Executive Director Richard S. Martinez of the Center for Diversity said that appointing a chief diversity officer is “a very positive step in the right direction for opening up more lines of communication.”

But is there such a thing as too much conversation? The word diversity has been used so much over the last year, that sometimes it’s hard to remember what that really means. It also seems to be having the opposite effect on the student body. The more the university talks about diversity, the harder it is for students to talk about it. Tensions are rising around the subject and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I have personally seen students afraid to speak on diversity in the classroom for fear of saying the wrong thing to the wrong crowd of people and that goes both ways.

These are not necessarily reasons to stop the conversation, but it might be reason enough to rethink the way we go about it as a university community.

On Sept. 23 during morning chapel, a video was played with students of color being asked a couple questions on the issue of diversity. While the answers given may have seemed innocent enough, as a first-generation student it seemed to be taking a step back.

There was a lot of talk on the role of diversity in the classroom, but I’m going to pose the question: what place does diversity have in certain classes? Math is the same all around the world and science only changes with the language. Authors of different races should be represented in an English class, but because of their worth and not exclusively because of the color of their skin.

We also cannot expect at this point in time that all professors are going to know how to include our culture in their classes. It’s our job to teach them. It’s our job as students and faculty of color to lovingly tell our peers and our professors how we can be included.

Dr. Denu said it wonderfully in chapel, “Can we become a culture that sees each other?”

Instead of looking at diversity as a whole, look at it on an individual level. See the content of my character not the color of my skin. Don’t just look at us and see us as students of color; see us and treat us as students. To cater to us because you feel the need to for the sake of diversity is to limit us. We did not come to college to be limited. We should challenge each other, but not at the cost of a great education.

We need to get over this quota mentality because it is doing nothing but making things worse for students of color. The more you coddle us as students, the less prepared we will be for the real world and the more entitled we will feel. We talk about white privilege like we’re trying to create privilege for ourselves and that is not the way the real world should work. Instead of fighting for privilege, we should all be fighting against it.