President Dahl's campus wide presentation, a "Call to Action" that took place last Wednesday left me feeling frustrated and impatient. In my experience, many of the assorted exchanges on diversity and community focus on racial and ethnic diversity and tend to leave out more subtle, but no less significant, ways in which students can differ from one another. Even though I recognize how important parley is when discussing diversity, especially on a campus less racially diverse, I was hoping for a more inclusive understanding and definition of diversity to come out of the discussion. Racial and ethnic diversity is often assumed to be the most evident or significant type of difference. It is discouraging to me therefore, that several other types of diversity are often ignored or overlooked. For example, before attending the event I was hoping for a discussion on the experiences of students of different sexual orientation, religious backgrounds and experiences of non-traditional students on campus along with those of ethnic minorities.
I do recognize that the aim of Schneider's research and FARI's video presentation may have been to focus solely on racially diverse students at Geneseo. By suggesting that a dialog will be centered on experiences of students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds however, it's just as important to encompass as many ethnic backgrounds as possible. I was disappointed by the lack of voices representing Indian, Asian, Latino and Native American students on campus in the video interviews.
I was also discouraged by the lack of suggestions on how we can start making visible attempts at acceptance and tolerance. A "call to action" suggests that we want to go beyond discussion and start physically doing something to change the status quo. I have thought about several ways in which this could possibly occur.
I feel that a required class for incoming freshmen and transfer students that creates an environment to discuss diversity issues would be extremely valuable. Many students have not interacted with people very different from them prior to college. This potential class would be a safe place where stereotypes, judgment, and worries about acceptance and exclusion can be brought to the table. Also, I've noticed that many of the multicultural groups seem to self-segregate, having the majority of members, if not all, belonging to the ethnic identity of the group. Another valuable change that we could work towards is creating an organization aimed at bringing together all multicultural and diversity groups on campus. I think this would potentially allow for collaboration towards events and activities that are inclusive for all students on campus. I am also in favor of much more serious repercussions when there are racist, sexist, or homophobic attempts to threaten, violate or humiliate students on this campus.
In lectures on diversity and community, presenters are enthusiastic about the future, and often suggest general ways in which the college can become a more inclusive and welcoming community. These suggestions usually do not reach beyond the idea of personal changes such as becoming more accepting and less judgmental of others. What we need is an active and encompassing forum to make changes as an entire campus. It is not until we recognize the need for a more inclusive and passionate community that we can become effective agents for positive social change.