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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Opinion

Staff editorial: Ripping off the diversity bumper sticker


The University of Houston boasts diversity but is doing little to show appreciation for it. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

The University of Houston is the second most diverse university in the country. We’ve all heard it before.

What we have not sensed is the University caring about its diversity, which is not a product of any superior recruitment or clever marketing to minorities. It is the product of UH belonging to Houston, one of the most diverse cities in the country.

According to UH’s Office of Institutional Research, 77.9 percent of students here live in the greater Houston area.

You cannot tout diversity if you do not acknowledge, support and nurture its presence and your appreciation of it. That goes further than saying “thank you” and offering foreign language courses.

Ethnic groups from around the world are represented on campus.

You have the black diaspora with Black Student Union, African Student Union and Caribbean Student Organization. From South America, you have Mexican American Studies Student Organization and Venezuelan Student Union. For Asia, there’s the Vietnamese Students Association and the Indian Students Association. Of course, the largest student organization on campus is the Muslim Students Association.

How many of these organizations have you heard of before?

Just because we have diversity does not mean that we make our diverse population feel important. This multiculturalism is not just a check mark on a list of aspects that make us desirable to prospective students. When you celebrate the University for being diverse and not the students who make it so, your claim to excellence is null and void.

This isn’t just about people of color, either. Diversity happens when students of various national origins, ethnic and gender identities, sexualities, ages, socioeconomic backgrounds and more take classes together.

Some aspects of diversity are well appreciated on campus. The Women and Gender Resource Center and its neighbor, the LGBTQ Resource Center, help marginalized students feel welcome and understood through events like the Vagina Monologues and Take Back the Night.

Other organizations and departments that cater to minorities also do good work, but they are not as visible to less-involved students. The recently-created Center for Diversity and Inclusion hosts an annual event called Culture Connect Week that features programs designed to bring students of wildly different backgrounds together and share and engage in their stories.

The Council for Cultural Activities, formerly known as the Council of Ethnic Organizations, hosts similar events, such as the upcoming Cultural Taste of Houston.

While these efforts are needed and engaging, more can be done.

Having a seat at the table is not indicative of acceptance, nor is it an adequate considering the city we live in and the school we attend. We are not celebrating diverse students enough for how much they give us.

One solution would be to expand Culture Connect Week and host an international heritage month. Each week could be dedicated to a continent or region to showcase where the students come from. Activities like music, dance, art, movies, language and, of course, food would give the entire student body a deeper understanding of the different cultures that surround them.

Simply celebrating is enough to make people feel important. The sentiment of inclusion becomes even more genuine as international students and others celebrate the best way they know how: in the ways of their own cultures.

The act of solidarity will benefit both the University and the students in the long run.  

This is not solely the job of the faculty, administration or even Renu Khator. It starts with other students. Particularly those in registered and fee-funded student organizations, and especially the reporters and editors at this newspaper.

We must support our diverse cast of on-campus organizations beyond just attending their events. For inclusion to happen, we must form supportive relationships with solidarity and give under-supported groups a feeling of visibility.

The University should also consider allocating more funds to the Activities Funding Board, which gives money to registered student organizations who ask for it. If AFB has funds left over, the committee should make it rain on these ethnic organizations.  

We cannot take for granted the diversity we have been given. Diversity is neither a slogan nor a bumper sticker.

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  • Robert

    This Staff Editorial is terrible. What is even the point? I read through this, learned absolutely nothing, and have no resemblance of an idea for what you could possibly be trying to argue here.

    I mean, vague and bold claims such as, “What we have not sensed is the University caring about its diversity” are followed up with no substantial evidence. In addition, you contradict yourself by bringing up efforts in which the University HAS cared about diversity. Are the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the Council for Cultural Activities not a testament to the University caring about diversity? So since you contradict yourself, when you say “the University” do you mean the students?!? If that is the case, you should be more specific. If you’re addressing the students, I hope you recognize they aren’t the ones touting diversity. In addition to that, it’s not a student’s responsibility to engross themselves in Diversity, they’re here to graduate.

    The ideas your propose are nice, but dear god, the way you try to establish any sort of problem is just idiotic. It feels like you sat through one CDI workshop, and just regurgitated it all over this article. Whoever wrote this is why people can’t stand liberals.

    • robert 2

      who are u?

  • Paul O’Brien

    Respectfully, I think the observation is short sighted.

    The Univerisity does not stand in a position to tell students, to be more inclusive. Not because its not the right thing to do, but because students can choose not to listen.

    Students, choosing not to listen to the Univerisity at face value may seem like a weak argument however, when you consider the University spends millions on degree advisiors to tell students how to graduate in 4 years yet we have an average graduation rate of 6+ years, I would venture most professors would agree that long term graduation rates can be traced back to not listening to advisors there first and second year and instead going on and doing there own “plan” which more often than not leads to taking more classes and resulting in a lower GPA. Evidence of this is in our average Univerisity GPA and the The average UH graduate having 150+ credit hours when receiving there first degree.

    In an effort to correct this, Paula Short created UH in 4 with her staff to inventivise students into graduating on time rather than having the University continuing just to tell students what they should be doing. UH in 4 can and should be noted as a resounding success.

    To the editorial board. The University is fully aware of what they are doing, there in-action which this article calls out, comes from an understanding of how students respond to the University.

    The implementation of inclusion, with our very diversified campus, is not seen in a bunch of orgs which, from one perspective add diversity in “different” types of orginizations, but rather in the communes of public university facilities from which all students must use and cannot avoid interacting with others who are different from they are. (Examples of this are our rec center, our two cafeterias, and our library.) These areas are limited space, populated and do not grant any sort of special privilege to students, for they do not have a target audience other than students that reside our campus.

    Where other more prominent and elite universities will always fail to have inclusion no matter how hard they try to create diversity and akwardly force inclusion, is the allowing of multiple types of “public” venues with special privileges being granted to students, who pay significantly more money, make significantly higher grades, or exercise traditional discriminatory practices. UH attempts to imitate this, with the Honors college, and Baure College of buisness by creating entire spaces for the haves and the have not’s. Creating an elitism that will, take us up the academic ladder as far as rankings, but will put us in a position where we will (like other elite institution’s) have to make special doors to create diversity, and have to market heavily to force orginizations, which are in fact so specialized and marketed to one type of ethnic/cultural group, (like the ones stated in the article) that they do not seek inclusion in there mission statements, in favor of achieving a homogeneous like minded student org, which want to come together to practice or discuss X.

    The celebration of diversity is not the advocating of any handful of groups, but the diveristy and inclusion that is made when no efforts are made to create it. That is what makes UH different. We dont have to try as hard as other University, and it is my personal opinion that the more this university tries to create inclusion the more it will divide the student into a diversified but non inclusive student body, but by the we achieve that, we will be celebrating how similar we look like the greatest institutions in the world.

    Elite Universities want to have what we have in inclusion and diversity, which is why we need to continue to be different and not grant extra privilages to students who are attending the Univeristy, but grant accolades of difference upon graduating. This way we are treated the same despite our grades, our wealth or our homeland origins.

    This practice will be the most equal people will be treated in there lives, which if done with discipline, will hopefully lead to students leaving this University (like myself) with an ideal of how people should be treated.

    Stay out of students buisness and force students to share, its uncanny how many friends you make when you find out you play with the same toys.

  • Bobby Young

    circular reasoning ,leaves one with nothing but a head full of mini migraine

  • David

    I think the other people just simply don’t care for your topic. Your ideas are stated well.

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