Di·ver·si·ty, Diverse. Open up a college panflute, now count the number of times that word appears. The biggest hook a college can use isn’t the number of people in the school but often the number of cultures and religions represented. Searching for the definition on Google won’t actually get the answer either.
The definition varies and often is what the audience wants it to be. Listed are interviewees definitions of the word Diversity:
Hannah Walmsley a half-white, half-African American student that attends George Mason University said, “A collection of people or things from different cultures, races, and experiences coming together”
Soulef Oualia an immigrant from Algeria and a student that attends Northern Virginia Community College said, “I think of variety in terms of people and their culture, backgrounds, experiences.”
Naomi Simatos an immigrant half Ethiopian and half Greece student that attends George Mason University said, “The awareness of other cultures and traditions around you. Being able to accept it and learn from it.”
Ahmad Abumraighi an immigrant Jordanian- Palestistianian student that attends Marymount University said, “Being in space, interacting, with people who do not look/think like me. “
Safa Hawash a half Palestinian and half Egyptian-American student that attends George Mason University said, “Diversity means to feel accepted, to not feel nervous to speak your mind in any given environment. A place doesn’t have to be racially or ethnically diverse to actually be diverse. Diversity comes with intellect.”
Maleeha Darab an Afghani- American student that attends George Mason University said, “Diversity as a concept that doesn’t apply to me personally. Diversity is only diversity for white people, in my opinion. Diversity to me is something normal. I enter my mosque and I see every color, every ethnicity and that’s family to me. That’s what diversity is. It’s inclusion and open-mindedness.”
Iman Said an Eritrean- American that attends George Mason University said, “The presence and inclusion of many other different backgrounds, religions, skin tones, ethnicities, and lifestyles.”
Even the listed definitions are diverse but at the root say the same thing. From all of this data acquired here is the full definition that this article will be going by.
“In North America, the word “diversity” is strongly associated with racial diversity. However, that is just one dimension of human reality. We also differ in gender, language, manners, and culture, social roles, sexual orientation, education, skills, income, and countless other domains. In recent years, some advocates have even argued for the recognition of “neurodiversity,” which refers to the range of differences in brain function,” says the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
From all this data collected the conclusion is diversity is a collection of differences whether that be in phenotype (ethnicity/race), social economic status (money), political differences (liberal/ conservative), ability (disability, mental disability, physical disability), religion, gender (if applicable), sexuality (LGBQ+) and culture.
Surprisingly a lot of students said yes their schools are diverse and that they have all experienced diversity within their University. George Mason students have a huge population of students and are ranked #2 most diverse University in the State of Virginia. Hannah Wamsley says “They seem to be inclusive to all people from what I’ve seen but I’m not sure if they need to improve in certain areas,” That’s the problem is that it seems that it’s diverse walking into classrooms.
Similar to Iman Said’s Glodan Health class she experiences, “ we often discuss socioeconomic disparities in the health field. Every time we do, I look around my classroom and try to get a feel of the differences among me and my peers and we’re all so different. There are people that were born here and others that English is their second/third language. There are people who have traveled around the world and people who never left the US. People who practice Islam and those who practice Judaism, people who are homosexual, and others who are straight, people from Latin America and others from West Africa. Some who have physical disabilities and others who have mental. We all have such different experiences and narratives and different stories to tell. This is how I know we’re diverse.”
When classrooms feel like that it is easy to forget that just because you see these groups represented it doesn’t mean that the students interact with them outside of school. In all Universities, there are clubs that represent so many different cultures, religions, political views, anything, and everything is represented. The flaw is not that there are so many different groups but like Safa Hawash says, “We do have lots of diversity at George Mason University. Clubs that represent every culture. But that’s exactly what separates us, we mentally and physically classify ourselves in our own cultural walls.” The same groups and categories people so desperately want to be apart of the university literally become Isolated into their own clicks. Its almost as if The University is saying we have people like you so you can be with them.
In the movie Pitch Perfect, there is a scene where Beca and her roommate Kimmy Jin walk around to check out the venues and clubs during rush week. Beca is trying to stick with her roommate Kimmy Jin but the moment that she sees the Korean club table she leaves Beca behind to join her group. Korea is Kimmy Jins country of origin leaving Beca alone instead of asking her to join.
Even here at Marymount University, this applies, Ahmad Abumraighi, “It’s a diverse campus, but groups are isolated. They don’t interact or work together.” Imagine the cafeteria scene in Mean Girls where everyone is sitting with people who were similar to themselves. The overall school was diverse but even in that movie, the “Asian” kids sit next to each other the African American kids sit together.
With the problem often comes with a solution Naomi Simatos a George Mason University student says, “instead of having separate groups celebrating their selfs maybe present students with the ability to enjoy someone else’s functions in terms of culture and tradition.” Events are often hosted where others are welcome to share in the festivities but may fear being met with hostility or even carry stereotypes about the group thus do not attend.
There is not one place in the states that don’t have “foreign food.” Pizza, tacos, Halal food truck down the street. It’s easy to eat another culture food but diversity does just stop there. When schools claim diversity but don’t deliver it often feels like a betrayal, Soulef Oualia says, “It feels like the university is trying for the sake of appearing diverse, but not doing anything systemically to make an inherent change. I feel that it would be that the university cares for more than just the title of diversity, that people are not just a prize to be won.” Diversity isn’t just colors and a smiling hug photo for the front pages or front of the school’s website. Its also internal it’s easy to share another’s food but how about learning sign language for the deaf friends? How often do students have friends who are of a different ability than them? How often do students Join in protests that done necessarily represent your phenotype? Safa Hawash deals with this often by having, “ a couple of friends who support Sisi of Egypt, a friend who doesn’t believe there is media censorship in Palestine and Israel, many friends that argue on the logistics of religion.”
All in all the word diversity is misappropriated and schools don’t often deliver on their open letter promises. College is hard enough to feel alone in a place you have to spend four years. This is an epidemic and an issue even the #2 ranked most diverse has issues of inclusion. Maybe the problem lies there, diversity has become a commodity, the more diverse the school and the number of students go up. It’s like having so much power and not knowing what to do with it. As a cultured society has shifted and millennial don’t intermix with people who do not share the same political, religious, or world view. Diversity is allowing everyone to share their narrative even if it’s different than your own. It is important to delve into diversity in order to grow and learn new things about yourself and learning new positions in life. Being around people we don’t know and being in change is uncomfortable, without getting out of the comfort zone society stays stagnant and that a cumulative loss.