Diversity and inclusion are the rallying cries of our generation. It has gotten to a point where at schools like EC there are positions, both administrative and at the student level, that have diversity and inclusion in the title.
Some schools have even gone so far as to make diversity and inclusion an active part of their mission. Other academic institutions have recognized their shortcomings in assisting marginalized students and cater their programming to ensure the safety and retention of these students
Note the difference.
Language of diversity and inclusion is antiquated and frankly useless. Diversity is nothing more than a buzzword. When the foundations of an institution’s principles are set in something that has no literal meaning, there is no way to hold that institution accountable.
The literal definition of diversity is “a range of different things.” When we talk about people and students, the cry for “a range of different things” can be met by the school recruiting a student body that is comprised of 30 percent people with blond hair.
Even when we specify the need for racial/ethnic diversity, what good does it do if we recruit to a campus that does not have the interests of the least advantaged in mind?
What needs to happen is a shift from language of diversity and inclusion to retention of reparations. Institutions like EC can either heal or continue the damage created by other, much more evil institutions.
For example, Elmhurst has a 5.5 percent black population as of 2016, according to the school’s website. The college also reports that 4.7 percent of the faculty population is black. It appears that the proportion of black faculty mirror the population of black students.
If this is the case, a college with an authentic dedication to social justice would emphasize the importance of hiring black faculty members to increase the enrollment of the black population. It would also seem that maybe the comfort of black students is related to their ability to see people like them holding positions of power.
Retention won’t happen if an entire demographic feels uncomfortable being at the school.
We as a student body have an opportunity to create or dismantle the dominant narratives of this school as we see fit. I personally am not comfortable with a narrative that uses students of color to create a false and frankly masturbatory self-image despite EC not actually serving them. While simply changing wording won’t bring about change in and of itself, change cannot even begin if our foundation has no meaning.
The words “diversity and inclusion” are just words. If colleges focus on the recruitment of a diverse student body, but do nothing to ensure their safety, they have done nothing. Our school, and many like it, think that this is the goal and boast of their commitment to diversity and inclusion but show no commitment to students. What talking about equity requires is talking about reparations.
How can institutions be specific in their initiatives to support students of color? How can institutions make up for the harm they have allowed to exist, or perhaps even perpetrated? If specificity and accountability aren’t something to consider then Elmhurst College’s diversity and inclusion rhetoric is doing a terrific job.