Guest lecturer encourages continued diversification

On Wednesday Sept. 25, Geneseo hosted Archie Ervin, vice president for institute diversity at the Georgia Institute of Technology, for the Presidential Lecture on Diversity Planning. According to Ervin, he aims to promote a sense of equity, diversity and inclusion in his work. Ervin’s lecture addressed the best ways to implement this mindset at other institutions of higher education.

President Christopher Dahl opened the lecture by discussing his own thoughts regarding diversity in a college campus.

“The landscape in [how] diversity works in higher education is changing,” Dahl said. “We learn from others who are different from us in a variety of ways. Diversity is at the heart of our strategic mission to become a great public liberal arts college and, of course, at the heart of building the kind of community we need in the 21st century to really prepare students for a real, globally diverse world.”

Dahl said that Ervin’s commitment to maintaining and expanding a diverse community made him a nationally recognized leader in diversity. According to the Georgia Tech website, Ervin’s line of work includes establishing institutional policies that will enhance diversity in terms of gender, race and ethnicity within the faculty, staff and student populations.

Ervin spoke about the continued efforts of various universities, including Geneseo, to increase their diversity. The process, he said, is often difficult, and a lot of “heavy lifting” must be done in order for the changes to work, citing the fact that many resist the idea of diversity out of fear.

Ervin said that the key to achieving optimum levels of diversity lies within strong leadership. He also said that Geneseo is well on its way to reaching this goal.

“Don’t stop now,” he said. “You have reached a point where you are at the precipice of making a significant change in this community.

“The term ‘diversity’ has been hijacked,” Ervin said. “People have defined [diversity] in a negative way, that it’s about forcing belief systems on people when that’s not what it’s about.

“It’s not about a belief system; it’s about [the fact] that we are different,” he said. “We have different strengths and weaknesses; we have different perspectives … It’s about taking something that’s already good and building on it.”

According to Ervin, a lack of progress in diversification stems from a lack of communication. He discussed the difficulties of being well informed on international matters in a relatively uniform community and stressed the importance of maintaining strong communication with faculty.

Ervin said he agreed with Dahl’s opinion regarding the importance of diversity in the changing political and educational climates of today.

“We find that there is greater capacity for a [variety] of perspectives in any human enterprise,” Ervin said. “It’s those differences that often find ways of … providing much better solutions to challenges and issues. We are stronger when we are inclusive of that.”