This school year, Elmhurst College welcomed the most diverse freshman class in campus history. It is no surprise the student body is getting more diverse, with student activity groups on campus one of the best examples of this inclusion.
But the buck does not stop there. For the campus to have real inclusion, it needs to start top-down from faculty and staff first.
Studies show that when students have role models that look like them, they have a better chance at success. For example, female undergraduate students are more likely to take a leadership role when a female role model is present. A diverse range of faculty has proven to be beneficial for everyone, not just underrepresented groups, as it allows for robust discussions with a variety of perspectives in the classroom, preparing all students for the real world.
Good representation is when any student in any department has an equally likely chance of having a class with a white straight male teacher as a black lesbian teacher.
Will nursing students meet Latinx nursing faculty or even a male professor? Will the computer science department have more female professors? There may be some select diverse faculty in these programs, but while it is guaranteed that all students will have white professors, it is not guaranteed or likely that all students will have a minority professor.
There are currently departments on campus with little to no representation of minority groups. How does the school expect to retain students of color, other minority groups, or give white students diverse perspectives with a lack of representative faculty and staff?
Race and gender is just the most obvious piece of the puzzle because it is an identity we can see or assume. The school is launching the new True Colors Community, a resident community “specifically to support students who identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community.” It is great that a space like this is being developed, but what happens when queer students cannot see themselves among faculty? What happens when they feel they have no authority to turn to when something goes wrong?
Diversity needs to be seen in higher administration as well. When students walk into the Blume Boardroom in the Frick Center, they are greeted by large portraits of former EC presidents—12 white men and one white-passing man of color. We would love students to one day walk in and see a woman, a person of color, or someone else from an underrepresented group depicted on those walls, but that will only be a reality if the campus starts to invest in diverse recruitment all around, not just with students.
Without representation, the diverse school EC fetishizes will not exist outside of a given year’s freshman class. This is to say that students may enroll, but many will drop out. It is just common sense to assume that if a student desires resources and does not receive them, they will leave.
EC puts heavy focus on recruiting a diverse student body; why should the recruitment of a diverse faculty and staff be any different?