Witness from the frontlines… of college campuses

/ 28 August 2006

TheThink writes beautifully about his experiences as a diversity facilitator for incoming students at Rice University. The whole piece is definitely worth reading, but here a few excerpts:

"I did learn a lot last week.

I learned that “education” will never be tantamount to compassion, mutual respect, or humility. Education, in the academic sense, at times only makes people more self assured, ignorant, and arrogant.

I learned that people who fear dialogue about diversity use the phrase “politically correct” to stifle conversation that has the potential to be meaningful when it comes to finding beneficial solutions for everyone involved.

I learned that people who either (a) fear dialogue about diversity or (b) are way too idealistic say the following: “Why are we focusing on our differences when we should be focusing on our similarities. If we don’t talk about our problems, then they won’t be an issue.” Right. Tell that to the married couple on the brink of divorce or the friendship this close to ending. Communication solves problems; silence perpetuates problems.

I learned that white people, especially white men, come into ‘diversity’ workshops already ultra-defensive, expecting to be bashed throughout the entire workshop or told that they do not have culture. Something that I made a point of saying in each and every workshop was that “White people have a culture, but it is your responsibility to trace that culture back and be proud of it. You should not be ashamed of where you come from.” Even still, a lot of whites in the audience didn’t hear my words. They were already closed off."

It's not just undergraduates at Rice University -- we have these issues at a graduate level theological school, as well. And we ought to have better resources for dealing with them!