Why Diversity Matters

by Jamal Brown | 11/9/06 6:00am

Having a diverse community fosters personal growth and enrichment. This is the vision of diversity that Dartmouth hopes to achieve. I am writing this editorial on behalf of the Inter-Community Council, a body of students representing the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, the International Office and the Dartmouth community at large. The I-CC aims to build organizational connections among communities to foster and improve understanding and mutual support and advocate for shared interests. Recent comments from Jacob Baron '10's op-ed ("Dartmouth's Diversity Obsession," Nov. 2) lead us to think that a significant segment of the Dartmouth population still does not understand why the concept of diversity is integral to our mission as a college. Why does diversity matter?

First and foremost, we applaud the administration in its effort to promote an inclusive environment for all students with different experiences, backgrounds and beliefs. Diversity enriches the education of each and every Dartmouth student and should be appealing to all. The academic discourse that is found at a place like Dartmouth needs to be constantly shifting and evolving to keep up with the world around it. How are we supposed to grow as an institution if diversity is not a part of the essential elements of our campus? Why have thousands of other institutions supported efforts to greatly diversify their campuses if it is not a vehicle for intellectual empowerment? Surely, if the decision to come to Dartmouth were based upon the number of minority students alone, both white and students of color alike would be more geared toward schools like Columbia or Harvard, which are located in urban centers.

Baron's assertion that the College arguably favors "minorities in admissions" assumes that minorities are not as qualified as their white counterparts to tackle the academic rigor that Dartmouth has to offer. The academic laurels of minority students are considerable as well. Baron's generalization is disturbing because it precludes the fact that there is a plethora of minority students that contribute greatly to this campus.

Though Baron narrowly defines diversity by pitting white and non-white against each other, it is our hope as an organization to break down this dichotomy and redefine diversity as a concept that includes all. Moreover, Baron's definition of diversity solely in racial terms is problematic as diversity encompasses other aspects of identity, including religious background, gender and gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status, just to name a few. Diversity in its text form is simply too broad to define, but nonetheless, its one essential aspect is its attitude of inclusivity which is something that we should all try to promote and foster for a better Dartmouth tomorrow.

Should Dartmouth stop its campaign to promote not only an intellectually engaged campus but also a safe and inclusive environment for all through means of promoting diversity and understanding? No. Too many students on this campus experience homophobic, racist and sexist incidents on a daily basis for the administration to de-emphasize its "obsession" with diversity. Affinity houses have to fight everyday against the rhetoric that they are self-segregating because the individuals occupying those spaces make up one predominant race -- while never considering that Greek houses do the same. It can be easily argued that the administration does not focus enough on diversity and its many facets to remedy these problems, but it should not stop trying.

Every person that comes into Dartmouth carries with him or her a distinct background and has an important view of the world, that, when communicated in an intellectual atmosphere, should question our own understanding. The Women's Rights movement, the Civil Rights movement and every other form of revolutionary growth spurt that our nation has experienced occurred because minds who were able to view the normative values of society from a different lens came together to raise the questions of why our society operates in a certain way. Diversity is not a policy that aims to suit those who are underprivileged, so much as it aims to create a community that is willing to question its own ideas. This in turn creates further dialogue about why our society and our world operate in the ways that they do.

It is essential that diversity flourish in institutions such as Dartmouth in order to push our minds into more coherent, intelligent and worldly modes of thought. If diverse professors and students are not present, worlds of knowledge are lost to us. And when last checked, knowledge is why places like Dartmouth exist.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!