Boasting about “diversity” at UCR is not enough — it’s time we practice it

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Courtesy of UCR Today

No one will ever have to question whether UCR is a diverse campus. By now, UCR’s high degree of diversity is a cornerstone of its academic reputation and of its campus culture. While this in itself is not a problem per se, what is of concern is whether UCR’s administration is truly committed to diversity, and whether they consider diversity to be more than just a vague goal that they can use to market the school.

UCR certainly goes above and beyond in its mission of admitting a racially and culturally diverse pool of students every year, and has fostered a safe environment for these students, with their widely differing backgrounds. However, when it comes to accounting for any other needs, the campus administration is comparatively negligent. Consider, for example, the issue of food insecurity. Admitting students for the sake of diversity inevitably includes admitting individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Yet, this campus has a 62 percent food insecurity rate. Such a massive disparity in students’ abilities to do something so elementary as feeding themselves indicates that UCR is unwilling to make concrete efforts in providing for students’ needs stemming from a diverse population. Token efforts such as the R’Pantry simply are not enough to alleviate so widespread an issue.

Such a massive disparity in students’ abilities to do something so elementary as feeding themselves indicates that UCR is unwilling to make concrete efforts in providing for students’ needs stemming from a diverse population.

Another issue is that the leadership in charge of this diverse campus is at a significant disconnect with the student body and its needs. Our current chancellor, to name one example, is one in a series of mostly white males to hold this highest position, which fundamentally shapes campus policy. It is easy for such leaders to verbally uphold UCR’s values such as diversity, but it is simply not possible for them to fully appreciate the meaning of these words when they do not share the same kind of diverse backgrounds that their students do. Until UCR’s leaders at all levels are thoroughly acquainted with the perspectives of the student body, they can do little but tout diversity as a way of making themselves look good, without actually achieving anything else.

It is also problematic that the student body has to have as much of a hand in promoting its diverse interests as it does. UCR’s student organizations have done admirably to advertise themselves and their goals, and have put together impressive and informative events to share their cultures, beliefs and experiences. Nevertheless, it would speak volumes if the planning and execution of such events were not left to the limited resources of students, and were instead taken up — albeit to a somewhat limited degree — by campus administration. Granted, some events would lose part of their appeal by being expanded to a massive scale, losing touch with the students who would otherwise have been integral to preparing them. Still, considering how often events planned by the administration are focused on issues like revenue, including the “Living the Promise” campaign, it would be a positive change to see them involved in promoting the diversity they like to boast about in some meaningful manner.

Often, it should be noted, the failure to completely embrace diversity lies more with the individual students, instead of with the higher-ups on campus. Because so much of embracing diversity begins and ends with students, there are often suggestions (or demands) from students that universities implement a form of training for incoming freshmen to instruct them on how to interact in the sort of diverse environment this campus and others present. This, however, is not a viable or necessary step that administrators should pursue. Aside from the likelihood that such “training” would come off as brainwashing, it is largely unnecessary. For the most part, students are not so antisocial or stupid that they do not know how to properly act around people who are different from them, and the minority that would perhaps be uncomfortable in such interactions might very well just avoid them.

“Diversity” is not just some magic word that means that UCR has done all it needs to do for its student body.

Furthermore, the very fact that students are presented with a diverse population is enough for them to begin learning, one could say, by osmosis. With the high likelihood that they will have to interact with people who come from varying backgrounds on a day-to-day basis, students will automatically learn about these backgrounds without being forced. Any form of diversity training, on the other hand, would inherently be a forced matter and thus counterintuitive. Unlike similar training, such as for alcohol safety, diversity is not a matter of hard facts — instead, it is about people, and learning about interacting with people cannot be quantified into some lecture or class, it has to be picked up over the course of years.

“Diversity” is not just some magic word that means that UCR has done all it needs to do for its student body. There are definite and real ways UCR can improve its status as a diverse and tolerant institution, and any failure to take the proper steps can only harm this hard-earned reputation.

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