DIVERSITY IN REVERSE BENEFITS NO ONE

There is no question that diversity and inclusion of all people—black, white, yellow or green—have achieved great strides in the workplace.  There may be room for more improvement in this arena, but the remaining problem areas are far more isolated.

The residential arena with single family homes, apartments and condos has made significant progress as well.  Personal relationships, too, have seen sizeable increases in their number.

The stupefying problem today is in our colleges and universities.  We appear to be having reverse diversity on that front.  It’s getting worse and it’s baffling.

Our country’s youth have always been on the forefront of “progressive change”; i.e., their support for gay marriage, legalizing marijuana and free speech.

Why, oh why, do we have more and more segregation on college campuses?  Why do we have less inclusion and integration of races and religions as well as ethnic, political thinking and cultural backgrounds?  The only exception in the college universe is in their sports teams.

Fraternities, clubs, dining rooms and all centers of student interaction appear more segregated than ever.  The emphasis at college and university diversity programs seems aimed primarily at the admission process and/or the number of women and minorities—a narrow and stifling view.

Writing in eNEWSLINE, Barron Harvey, Dean of Howard University Business School, had some interesting comments:

“Diversity in the U.S. continues to grow and is one of this nation’s dominant attributes.  Minorities make up more than 30 percent of the nation and are responsible for more than 60 percent of its population growth.  Institutions of higher education still have a long way to go to reflect this attribute.  Although most universities use mission, vision, and value statements to convey the importance of diversity, the reality is these statements do not result in actions that generate significant impact to diversity populations in classrooms, nor does it eliminate barriers for inclusion.  One of the great challenges of higher education today continues to be how to develop effective diversity and inclusion programs, how to sustain these programs, and subsequently incorporate them into university and college life.

Growing Pains 

“The topic of diversity and inclusion for most administrators at top institutions of higher learning is a difficult and painful discussion.  Although most universities can share information about their diversity programs or activities, discussions are made more difficult due to the lack of significant results and progress.  Universities and colleges fail when they struggle to outline a coherent strategy for diversity and inclusion and to situate it as a continual element of improvement.  The key is not only to have a coherent strategy, but the strategy must be coupled with active and consistent engagement.

Elusive Sustainable Success

“Although not reflective of the nation’s diversity, the top medical and law schools in the U.S. are able to report that 15 percent of their graduates are underrepresented minorities.  That is more than 60 percent better than most business schools.

“One argument being made as to why the minority enrollment at top business schools remains significantly low over the last 20 years places blame on the obsession with MBA rankings.  Business schools have been so focused on recruiting only the students with the highest GMAT scores and undergraduate grade point averages in order to maintain or improve their position on a variety of national and international MBA rankings that it has been harder to make any significant increases in diversity.

“Another major argument resides in the fact that business schools are, and have woefully been, devoid of diverse faculty.  This remains a long-term problem for most business schools and the number of minority faculty will remain minimal in the foreseeable future.

Looking Ahead

“I wonder what would be the result if we were to turn this paradigm on its edge and use the same or similar resources and strategies used to internationalize our business schools to diversify our learning environments and include more marginalized and underrepresented populations.

Faculty Diversity

“According to data compiled by the Higher Education Research Institute, only 12% of university faculty identify as politically right of center, and these are mainly professors in schools of engineering and other professional schools.  Only 5% of professors in the humanities and social-science departments so identify.

“The advocates of diversity in higher education claim that learning requires the robust exchange of ideas, which is enhanced when students and faculty have the greatest variety of backgrounds.  They argue that exposure to people from different backgrounds breaks down unfair stereotypes and promotes understanding of those who come from different circumstances than oneself.

“It is also claimed that being in a diverse academic environment better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce, and that this preparation can only be developed through exposure to people of diverse cultures, ideas and viewpoints.  But if diversity is really such an important academic value, then why are universities making so little effort to increase the political and ideological diversity of their faculties?  A diverse faculty provides students with role models who demonstrate that people from all backgrounds and political persuasion are worth emulating.

“The hue and cry for `safe places’ on college campuses should be dismissed unilaterally as an attempt to foster the gathering of fools.”  For those of us in the out-of-touch generation, safe places are areas where like-minded airheads can congregate without interference of people with opposing points of view.

“This is the exact antithesis of diversity.  This is segregation of the narrow minded.”

From my personal experience, I have described in previous blogs about the diversity and inclusion of my college fraternity which gave me an enriching and rewarding college experience.  We thought the success of our community would spread and launch a movement to help change the world.

It is my firm belief that the most effective program of diversity in the college world is integrated housing, coupled with sports and other activities that spring from these integrated houses.  It doesn’t matter whether these are independent dorms or fraternities.

It puzzles me that today’s students aren’t able to benefit from the same cultural interchange and experience.

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