by Matthew Boardman
Last year, Whitworth conducted the Whitworth Campus Experience Survey as a preparatory action for its Vision 2021 plan. The purpose of the campus experience survey is to measure Whitworth’s current situation with regard to encouraging, advocating and supporting diversity on campus. The project was headed by the Institutional Diversity Committee (IDC) and surveyed faculty, staff and students. To achieve a higher level of objectivity, Whitworth hired Halualani & Associates to create and analyze the survey. In accordance with Goal 4 of Vision 2021, Whitworth will use the findings of the campus experience survey to propose an inclusive “diversity master plan,” which will provide “recommended actions, rationales, assignments of responsibility across the university, timelines, accountability processes, clearly defined methods and criteria for measuring progress, and a budget,” according to the IDC.
Hearing the word diversity in political speeches, the workplace and classrooms has become a commonality. Diversity can include race/ethnicity, culture, gender and sexual orientation, among others. We have all heard of the importance of diversity, but according to the Executive Summary of the campus experience survey, 79 percent of faculty, 70 percent of staff and 66 percent of students “feel that many people lack an understanding of the problems that people from other racial/ethnic groups face.”
All three respondent categories acknowledged that diversity is important, and I imagine most can explain why it is so. Where Whitworth is lacking is in its understanding of how to see diversity. According to Halualani & Associates, “Whitworth’s delivery of an education of the mind and heart would be enhanced by helping students across multiple disciplines to critique power and privilege and to develop an understanding of persistent socioeconomic disparities in society.”
Thankfully, actively encouraging racial, cultural and gender superiority is not nearly as widespread as it once was in the U.S., but it still persists to this day. The difference is that instead of being actively encouraged, it is passively practiced. This inheritance of power and privilege is much harder to critique and address because the majority of its practitioners are simply unaware that what they are receiving (and eventually dispersing) is indeed preferential treatment based upon race, culture or gender.
Self-evaluation can be incredibly challenging, and while worthwhile, external sources can be more informative. Whitworth currently requires students to take Core, one of the main objectives of which is “to equip and encourage students to explore the parameters of their own worldview,” according to the Whitworth E-Catalog. Lawrence Burnley, assistant vice president for diversity and intercultural relations, said he believes that Core needs to include a greater range of diversity. It predominantly focuses on the heritage of European rationalism, but has largely neglected to cover the perspectives of non-European cultures. What Core currently teaches should continue to be taught, but there are many equally valuable stories that have yet to be included, Burnley said.
Whitworth has taken other measures to support diversity in its community, such as requiring students to take 10 diversity credits. Student leaders are encouraged to make diversity, equity and inclusion a priority throughout campus life. On Tuesday, Sept. 30, Whitworth will host Brenda Allen in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall at 7:00 p.m., where she will be giving a lecture on diversity, leadership and why difference matters.
I dare say that all of us want to create Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a society where people, “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” It is my belief that this goal can and should be expanded to include not only race, but also gender, religion and sexual orientation. Each and every person is a fellow human being, entitled to the same human rights as you, and deserves to be treated as such. Humanity can be terrible or beautiful, and each person’s perception of it is affected by the behavior of those around them.
Contact Matthew Boardman at email@example.com