Recently, several of the multicultural and special interest student groups that are a part of Accent's Council for Enrichment (ACE) have had their budgets cut. ACE, which is funded by the Student Association, contains the multicultural and special interest groups on campus.
Losing money signifies more than a lack of funds. These groups that are supported by ACE funds strive to promote diversity on campus through numerous events and activities such as the annual cultural dinners, the Drag Ball, movies and speakers. By cutting these groups' budgets, the organizations that are most committed to enhancing diversity on campus face the challenge of still doing so but with far fewer resources. Cutting these organizations' ACE budgets suggest that perhaps this college isn't as concerned with promoting diversity as it seems.
Although our college can only brag that it's made up of about 10 percent minorities, many students here do try to promote diversity. It is a challenging process considering Geneseo's rural location and our small student body, but just this year I have seen stronger relationships forming between our multicultural and special interest groups.
That being said, we still have an incredibly long way to go. Being an active member of a multicultural or special interest group does make a difference, but beyond our student efforts, what else can attribute to a diverse community on campus? For those of you who do not know, Geneseo is in the process of trying to become an honors college. What does becoming an honors college, however, imply? I have heard that in order to maintain an honors status and attract the state's most intelligent, the College will cut the amount of minority and need-based scholarships and increase academic merit scholarships. This implies that an honors college is intended to be defined by academic and intellectual success.
What many do not consider, however, is that by targeting individuals who have succeeded academically in their high schools will most likely only include those who have received the best education and attention from their teachers. These students are those who live in wealthier areas and therefore receive better schooling. Even for those who are minorities attending schools with strong academic reputations, it is likely that they do not receive as much attention or opportunities as their white classmates.
What this implies is that the make-up of the future incoming classes at Geneseo may become more and more homogenous, that is, more white middle-upper class individuals. This is only one of my concerns however, but I realize that pointing out white middle-upper class individuals as not being diverse is unfair. Very often I hear diversity equated with racial minorities. There are numerous other ways however, to represent the minority. For example, on our college campus those with a more conservative Republican viewpoint are in the minority, so are those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
It is disappointing that so many professors have to offer extra credit for their students to attend diversity or multicultural events on campus. Many may think it's not worth their time to engage in another groups' culture or identity that may be different from their own. It's not easy to put yourself in a place where you don't feel comfortable. Eventually though, people are going to have to challenge themselves and interact with people who are quite different from them. Once again, diversity does not just mean visible racial differences on a college campus.
Understanding that the different cultures, beliefs, sexualities, ethnicities and languages others have should not be seen as intimidating barriers, but rather as opportunities to transcend unfamiliar physical appearances or stereotyped identities. When we interact with people who are different than us and show interest in their identities, we are getting that much closer to a more diverse and accepting college campus.