Diversity promotes positive educational, social values at ASU

Kevin Griffin

Chancellor Sheri N. Everts announced the formation of a student advisory committee geared toward increasing enrollment diversity. The chancellor will work with a committee of 12-15 student leaders toward that goal, according to The Appalachian.

The idea for the committee came about in part because of the fact, reported by www.forbes.com, that 87 percent of the student body is white, with various minority groups only composing 13 percent of campus, according to The Appalachian.

For many, the idea of diversity is regarded with a certain cynicism. Particularly among some conservative-minded people, diversity is linked to ideas of affirmative action, of giving people things they do not deserve. Additionally, it is bemoaned as typifying an overemphasis on multiculturalism and political correctness.

However, diversity does have legitimate value for a number of reasons. It is an unfortunate fact of our history that many minority groups have faced discrimination.

While there has been some progress in this area, the cultural advantages have not disappeared. Setting up a system that allows individuals from these groups to have fair access to opportunity matters. Increasing diversity of enrollment is one way of addressing this.

Also, having individuals with a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints contributes to both the educational and social atmosphere of a university. Interacting with people from different backgrounds provides an introduction to the real world.

Having a new emphasis on fostering diversity is a positive development, but even with this we must be careful. As important as it is for universities to take a genuine interest in diversity, in many cases universities see diversity as a marketing gimmick.

A December 2013 NPR report explored the marketing mindset that frames diversity at many universities. It recounts an incident in which the University of Wisconsin Photoshopped a black man into a photo on the cover of an application manual.

Tim Peppert, an expert quoted in the NPR report, explained that the purpose behind this is to promote an image of inclusiveness to attract prospective students.

Not that this is a bad thing. Putting out an image of diversity is good, but there should still be an effort to seriously work to make to actual progress with respect to diversity.

A further issue is what we consider to be our idea of diversity. From the reports, the proposed commission is focusing on racial and ethnic diversity. While that certainly matters, there could also be value into focusing on other groups and forms of diversity as well.

Diversity of ideas is a great example of a way broadening the concept of diversity.

Demonstrating that the campus provides a forum for people to exchange ideas in a safe environment could be a worthwhile way of expanding diversity beyond what are considered the normal boundaries of what defines diversity.

It is good that we seem to be taking an interest in diversity, but as we work in this area, we should be sure that the commitment is genuine and a broad idea of diversity drives university policy.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.