Redefining diversity

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September 21, 2007

5:03 AM

Diversity is very difficult to accomplish because it has so many different meanings. For most people, what comes to mind most of the time is race. They forget that diversity can be defined by a variety of factors, including religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic background and gender. Even aspects of a person’s physical features, such as hair highlights and birth marks, can be considered diverse.

p. In early August, the College’s website detailed the fact that 23 percent of the Class of 2011 is comprised of students of color, including Asians, Pacific Islanders, blacks, Hispanics and American Indians. This class is celebrated for being the most diverse in the history of the College, but why should the meaning of diversity be confined only to race?

p. I graduated from a small Catholic high school that had very little racial diversity and even less religious diversity. Most of the students came from the same area, so socio-economic differences were lacking, too. The absence of diversity became a sad, but true, joke.

p. With this in mind, I can appreciate the 23 percent of my class who exhibit racial diversity. As a half-Korean, it’s nice to not be the most ethnic person in the room for a change. Sure, the percentage seems small, but it’s better than that at a lot of other schools. The College, after all, tries to foster an environment in which students can learn about and come to value other cultures through its many multi-cultural organizations.

p. Maintaining diversity, however, creates a problem. By trying to keep up with the media attention placed on promoting racial diversity, colleges across the country forget that it does not simply mean a bunch of different races. Some take this warped definition of diversity to the extreme. Having a large pool of racially diverse individuals looks nice on a press release, but using racial stereotypes to further a cause, such as adding diversity to a community, is just as misguided as using these same stereotypes to hurt people. In both of these situations, the group or person is equally degraded despite the best of intentions.

p. We learned from shows like “Barney” and “Sesame Street” that everyone is special and everyone is an individual. Somehow, around age seven, we decided that we were too old to watch those shows, and we began to forget those lessons. Being straight, Caucasian and Christian can be just as diverse as being bisexual, black and Jewish. To truly show the statistics on diversity here at the College, the admissions office would have to include hundreds of sets of numbers that range from people who have freckles to people of differing religions.

p. So take a minute and think about diversity. What does it mean to you? What is it a measure of? Is it good or bad? And is it really that important?

p. __Jessica Gallinaro is a freshman at the College.__

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