Editorial Issue 10: Diverse individuals or uniform university?

On Nov. 11, students came together on their own accord, with the organizational help of Bucknell Student Government (BSG), to discuss existing issues on our campus, otherwise known as “the Campus Climate.” Panelists and students took time out of their busy schedules to attend the Campus Climate Panel because they feel strongly enough to voice their opinions about the problems on our campus in hopes of making the University a better place.

While a multitude of issues were passionately discussed at the Campus Climate Panel, there was one issue that was not given the attention it deserves: diversity. Toward the end of the panel, one student pointedly indicated that there was only one question discussed that did not relate to Greek life in some way, and she expressed disappointment that students were so focused on this single aspect of the climate and not on bigger issues like diversity. The Editorial Board feels this student’s same disappointment. Her point essentially encompasses a major issue on our campus: diversity on campus is, while not nonexistent, very lacking in every way, including in simple discussion. The Editorial Board feels strongly about discussing this issue, especially considering the lack of attention it was given during the panel. Because this is such a weighted issue, it is difficult to point to a specific solution, but it is important to continue the conversation.

It is no secret that diversity is a huge issue on our campus. At the most obvious level, there is a great lack of cultural and national diversity here. It is clear that the administration is aware of this glaring issue and has made efforts to improve diversity on our campus. Initiatives include programs such as the President’s Diversity Council and the Five-Year Diversity Plan. The lack of diversity is not a quick fix, but the administration is making a concerted effort to address it.

But diversity is a bigger, deeper issue that transcends the simple, surface-level conception of culture and nationality. Even if someone is from the same country, or even from the same state or neighborhood, one can have a different socioeconomic, political, and religious background as well as a different sexual orientation, sexual identity, and life perspective from which we can learn. The student body lacks this as well.

There also exists a campus-wide student mindset, or maybe even pressure, to fit the “Bucknell mold” and hide any differences, which perpetuates our lack of diversity. The student body is mostly comprised of Caucasian students from higher class backgrounds. There are certainly students here on scholarships and financial aid, but this is not the majority of campus. This may be what breeds some of the stereotypes of the typical “Bucknell student,” one who can be embodied by a closet filled with a certain selection of clothing labels. Even if students did not fit the mold before their first day on campus, it is likely that many of them do now. Observe the first-years at the start of fall semester and again at the start of spring semester: there is a noticeable difference in how most of them conform to these standards. This mindset only further perpetuates the diversity issue. Students feel the need to conform, and the issue runs deeper than merely the way students dress.Those here who have different views stand out in our community and, sadly, often not in a good way. Some of the roots of our diversity issue originate from this pressure to conform.

While it is certainly the job of the administration to attract and retain a more diverse study body, it is also the job of the current student body to appreciate diversity in all senses of the word. In the 2014-2019 Diversity Plan, the second goal is to “develop and maintain a campus climate and culture in which embracing diversity is a core value enacted by all members of the Bucknell community.” It is our jobs as students to hold ourselves individually accountable. Labeling and stereotyping others is toxic for our campus climate. Diversity will continue to be a problem until this system of judgement ceases to exist. Diversity is accepting others’ differences and finding strengths within them. We must seek out conversations about differing perspectives on our own accord. More importantly, we must listen, respect, embrace, and encourage those perspectives.

We attend the University for more than the surface-level gains, such as getting our first job offer at our dream company or an acceptance letter to our first-choice graduate school. We attend the University because we are here to learn. One of the most vital aspects of an education includes challenging our ways of thinking. The importance of diversity is that it catalyzes the exchange of new ideas that individuals may never have been exposed to before, especially in an academic setting. Diversity teaches us how to become well-rounded individuals—a trait that reaches far beyond the ability to succeed in the workplace but further to being an interesting, worldly, and intelligent person. The lack of diversity on our campus inhibits us from this. The only way to attain this is not by reading a textbook; it comes from seeking, listening, and engaging in conversations with those who are different from us, in any sense of the word previously discussed. We can all learn a little more about one another, and through this, about ourselves.

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