Recent events on several college campuses across the nation highlights that there remains work to do in order to realize true diversity in higher education. This is very troubling as we near 2016 and beyond. Apparently, some of our institutions live in a bubble and do not see the world for what it is, and how it is changing.
I’m an African-American male who attended undergraduate and graduate school on majority Caucasian campuses. We had some issues, but we worked through them individual-to-individual, organization-to-organization and with the assistance of faculty and administration. The key is when you hear of racial and diversity issues; address them immediately (a sore that festers becomes infected and a bigger sore). Surprisingly, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) have the same issues that need addressing.
Keys points that support my position:
- Technology advances – The growth of social media alone should burst any bubble one might be living in. One tweet or Facebook post can ignite people thousands of miles from its origin. The world is growing increasingly connected and smaller; and it doesn’t all look, think and feel like we do here in America. It would be prudent for us to seek out and learn from other people and cultures so that our future graduates are prepared for a world they will meet once they leave the relatively safe confines of college.
- Changing demographics of America – The racial fabric and demographics of America have changed forever. 2011 marked the first time that infants under one year of age are majority minority. Translate that 18 years from now. These infants are going to make up over 50 % of the college students. In order to survive, our colleges will need to pull out all stops to get these students to their campuses. Why not start now? It will benefit current students to learn how to live and interact in a multicultural environment and provide needed opportunities for minority students to begin to climb the increasingly steep economic ladder.
- Social and political events around the globe – One need only to turn on the television to see what is happening in the world. It is scary. Not surprisingly, many of the issues are based on economics, education and/or religion. Our current students/future leaders need to understand this so they may be able to develop new avenues for mutually beneficial interaction. The question you might ask yourself is: Are we looking to our students for some of the answers to solve diversity issues on campus? The answers may come from minority students who may have had to navigate certain situations like drug and gang infested neighborhoods, language barriers, poverty and political refuge. Just provide them the opportunity.
Why is diversity important and how do we foster it? First, diverse organizations are more productive and get the job done right, enabling people to grow. Secondly, an important tool to increase and promote diversity is to include it in your annual performance assessments of your faculty and administration. What is graded is improved. Lastly, meet regularly with minority groups to hear their concerns. And, always promote diversity everywhere and all the time.
Ironically, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear several legal cases regarding diversity soon. With the current court makeup, I can imagine what position they will side on. Regardless of the decisions, it is incumbent on and smart for college administrators to commit (Big) to diversity. Find a way(s) to be more inclusive. It will benefit your students, faculty and the institution in the long run.
I served nearly 27 years in the military and have thousands of examples that prove embracing and promoting diversity is a game changer and game winner. Schedule Gregg for your schools Diversity Check-Up! Schedule Gregg for your Black History Month Program!