Diversity should not divide

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April 15, 2008

1:51 AM

Spring is a time for renewal, a chance for new beginnings. The trees turn green again, flowers bloom, and the cobblestone paths are filled with prospective students searching for their new home.
Spring is here and the College has birthed a new freshman class.
Despite a lack of funds to competitively lure students and an UrbanDictionary.com definition that reads, “William and Mary: where fun goes to die … and your best hasn’t been good enough since 1693,” the College saw an increase in applicants by nearly 7 percent, and this year’s pool of accepted students is the College’s most diverse ever.

But what defines this diversity? Since my arrival last fall, I have heard this term tossed around with so many different meanings. I shudder at the word diversity because our society has its meaning misconstrued.

My concerns were solidified by a line in Friday’s Flat Hat that boasted of the College’s diversity based upon its admittance of 1,207 students of color, a number up 16.7 percent from last year’s 938.

We cannot champion ourselves as diverse just because we admit more minorities than we have in previous years, even if it is the smallest facet of the claim. We are foolish to attach numbers to diversity; diversity is not a quantitative ideal. To do so is shallow and an insult to the Class of 2012, whose members were chosen because of their grades and community involvement, not the color of their skin.

College admissions across the country have become increasingly competitive for colleges and students alike. The children of baby boomers, the echo generation, are flooding universities with applications, while the number of spots available remains about the same. This makes evaluating and ranking each student that much harder.

The Class of 2012 and recent classes were judged and admitted based on a holistic and comprehensive process, meaning that much more than GPA and service hours was considered when determining a student’s value to the College. However, it is the nature of the college application process to single out students based on their gender, race and hometown. Never have I been more aware of my Southern, middle-class, female whiteness than when applying to colleges, and I am clearly not alone. It is statistics like those presented in Friday’s Flat Hat that perpetuate these feelings and imply that race is a factor.

While I am confident that all of my peers were selected and invited to join the ranks of the College’s students because of their strong academic credentials, the racial and ethnic labels attached to certain groups of them divides us. Students at the College should be taken as individuals, not as subsets of a certain region or race.

Diversity is not black and white, nor is it Hispanic or Asian.

Diversity is a collection of all qualities that make us individuals.

We must stop misinterpreting diversity by using it to group individuals into subdivisions, no matter how convenient and efficient it may be.

The most diverse class to ever enter the College has a lot to live up to. We cannot fully begin to appreciate what makes us all unique until we are able to celebrate and embrace what brings us together.

Hopefully, this will not be a hard-learned lesson for the Class of 2012.

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