The majority of students at Miami University are tired of having diversity rammed down their throats. We know that we do a repugnant job with diversity, as evidenced by our ranking as the fourth worst of the 371 institutions rated by the Princeton Review for “race/class interaction.” The majority of us also believe it is ridiculous the administration continues to proclaim that Miami is a diverse place, that what we lack in visual diversity we make up for in a diversity of ideas. Now please, leave us alone.
According to the university Web site, we are 9.8 percent ethnically diverse. The state of Ohio, as of 2006, was 82.8 percent white. So there is a gap in diversity between Ohio’s demographics and Miami’s of about 7 or 8 percentage points. The United States is about 66 percent white, so the diversity gap with Miami compared to the nation is about 25 percentage points. As for how we compare to other schools, well, the Princeton Review has only identified three they believe are worse. The three questions I want to address now are (1) is diversity actually important? (2) is the university doing a good job with diversity? and (3) if we lack visual diversity, do we make for it up with a diversity of ideas?
Diversity is important on college campuses and there are enough people at Miami who disagree, so this should be spelled out. Ultimately, improving diversity is necessary to properly prepare students for the real world. Improving your familiarity with the culture of various subgroups is essential to having a full understanding of the country in which you live. Moreover, visual diversity does bring a greater range of perspectives and thought processes to the classroom, which allows us to better challenge ourselves academically. Finally, a lot of students will relocate to cities after Miami. If all you know from high school and college is diversity rates at 9 percent, you are simply unprepared for the spectrum of people who will be your future co-workers and neighbors.
Again, the university asserts we are in fact doing a lot in regards to diversity. Consider diversity here as having two facets, programming for underrepresented students and programming aimed at the majority of students. I do believe the university is doing a good job with top-down programming for underrepresented students at Miami, the key component of which is the large amount of resources and offices on campus that exist to offer support. The Miami Access Initiative, which provides scholarships to students from households making less that $35,000 each year, is also a strong positive to increase socio-economic diversity. Finally a plethora of student organizations support diversity through student-led programming and many are supported and encouraged by the school through Diversity Affairs Council and the various offices. As of 2006, 72 percent of ethnic minority students at Miami graduate, compared to about 50 percent nationally.
On the issue of diversity programming to the majority of students, we are terrible. Admittedly, this cannot be easy. Miami students are apathetic, and I have no reason to expect we are any more willing to follow top-down instructions on diversity than we are on alcohol (remember how AlcoholEdu curbed your consumption?). Peer-to-peer interaction is the best strategy for improving diversity, which is why the Princeton Review ranks “interaction.” It is why our demographics must improve to approach the demographics of the general population. You wouldn’t go to a house party where you literally know no one. The same is true for diversity initiatives; your willingness to attend is determined by your knowing someone who will be there. If, by virtue of 90 percent of campus being white, you make no close friends who belong to cultural or diversity organizations, why would you attend these programs? Moreover, it is unfair to expect the 10 percent of students who are ethnically diverse to assume the responsibility of educating the majority. Experiencing diversity and learning from it should come naturally through friendship and, in my opinion, this starts and ends with the admission office.
Finally, on the great diversity of thought at Miami, I honestly don’t know what the university is talking about. Maybe they mean professors? Maybe I’m naive to the tremendous diversity of ideas between one fraternity and another because I never rushed. We have no socialist party or communist party on campus and only recently was a libertarian party started. We are overwhelmingly Christian. We are typically upper-middle class. The issue that has sparked the most significant debate on campus recently – Qdoba or Chipotle?
So to everyone who complains about being tired of diversity, know that you are being ridiculous. It’s like complaining about Miami football winning too much, if anything, we need more of it.