By Blair Yankey
The Campus Climate Survey asked staff, faculty, and students at WMU if they were satisfied with diversity on campus. The major finding was that 92 percent of people agreed that WMU respects diversity and inclusion on campus.
White students expressed higher satisfaction rates than other racial-ethnic backgrounds. Initially, I was a very impressed with this high percentage, but after doing further research, now I think this percentage realistically is not as high and it lacks a lot of authenticity. Research found that incoming white students were primarily from white communities. Many white students have not experienced much diversity in order to know and understand what diversity really is. Also according to the survey, people with disabilities, religious minorities, the LGBT community, and female faculty and administrators were not as satisfied.
The biggest issue is that many people are not even trying to make a difference. In order to get people more satisfied with diversity on campus, I think people have to not be afraid to talk about diversity and be the change that you want to see. They have to take a stand and express what they aren’t satisfied with and importantly why they aren’t satisfied. Dr. Tim Ready, director of the Lewis Walker Institute, said that many students are afraid to talk about diversity because they’re afraid of saying something foolish and they don’t want to say something that might offend someone. However, if we don’t speak about it, then we will keep getting the same results.
The CCS survey recommends that WMU should develop new multicultural programs, but in order to develop new ones, we need more people involved in the programs that we already have. There are already many established RSO programs and events that allow people to actively get involved with diversity on campus, however I don’t think enough people are utilizing this advantage. Events are being promoted regularly throughout campus by flyers, chalk graffiti on the sidewalks, and organizations promoting events at the flagpoles, and yet, there were students whom I interviewed who said they had not been or participated in one diversity event or been involved in any groups.
One of the events I reported on for the Campus Climate Study project was the International Festival. The festival is the biggest multicultural event at WMU; it attracts about 4,000 students and community members annually. This event is very useful because it allows people to have a real interaction with people from diverse groups. At this year’s event, there was music, dance, food and fashions from 15 different cultures.
When I interviewed Daniel Nuevez, office director of the International Festival, he said that not enough Americans come to this event. “We try to tell them to come here and experience it, because once they do they always come back,” said Nuevez. I think this could be a leading reason why many foreign and minority students aren’t satisfied with diversity, since too few Americans are supporting these cultural events. I think this causes people to segregate themselves from other nationalities instead of interacting with everyone.
Students and faculty have the power to actively make the changes they are seeking; many just choose not to get involved. If you want your voice to be heard, you have to take action in order to make a difference.