Condemnation of Diversity Initiatives Reflects Misunderstanding
Nick Wallace ’14
Diversity is a hot topic here on campus. As described in a commentary article from the latest circulation of The Cowl, Providence College is taking many steps to improve the diversity of the student body. “Diversity” is now one of the five core values of PC’s Strategic Plan, and the school recently hired its first ever Chief Diversity Officer. As the Cowl article proclaims, it is indeed the truth that “diversity is more than skin color.” However, to assert that there is no need for Providence College to have a commission focused on improving diversity is ludicrous.
First, it should be noted that in the landmark Supreme Court Case Bakke v. University of California in 1978 the court ruled that affirmative action was constitutional, but also outlawed the use of all quota systems. Therefore, to suggest that Providence College’s objective to improve diversity may involve a quota system is simply misinformed.
Moreover, the author of the commentary piece explains her disillusionment in the schools affirmative action plan:
In order to assist diverse students, PC currently offers the Multicultural Scholarship Program. This program offers scholarships “designed for ethnic and cultural minorities.” These scholarships are “intended to be four-year scholarships to assist incoming students of color.” This would not be outrageous if diverse students earned the scholarships only because they are intelligent and well-rounded, not because they are colored. A student should not receive a special award because of his or her skin color. The civil rights movement was started for reasons just like this. Again, imagine if a scholarship was given to someone merely because he or she was white.
This contention would be valid if whites and minorities received the same opportunity to succeed prior to attending college. Sadly, this is simply not the case. While us white folks may be skeptical of affirmative action because we feel credit is due where credit is earned, there is no denying that empirically speaking, minorities tend to have lower incomes and lower levels of education than many in the white majority. It follows that many minorities may not have the money to send their child to a private prep school or pay for an SAT tutor. As a result, a hierarchal social pyramid has developed here in the United States, in which (generally speaking) white people are afforded significantly more advantages than minorities. Therefore, whites are already at an advantage just by being white; they don’t need to be given any special scholarship to prove it. This type of social ordering is disgusting, and to combat these realties, more opportunities need to be given to minorities, hence the reason why scholarships strictly for “people of color” exist.
The author also alleges, “This [the giving of scholarships to students based on race] would not be outrageous if diverse students earned the scholarships only because they are intelligent and well-rounded, not because they are colored. A student should not receive a special award because of his or her skin color.” It is wrong to assume that these students did not earn these scholarships academically. Additionally, Providence College is a private school and can choose to accept students they feel will fit their ideal future model as an educational institution. If Providence College feels diversity is an important aspect (rightfully so), they have the right to accept students for reasons other than academic credentials. Moreover, students can bring other things to a college campus besides high test-scores. Extra-curricular activities, service, and leadership roles are all things that an Admissions Officer looks for in a potential student. This notion is reflected in the fact that many schools, including Providence College, are now SAT optional, showing that indicators other than standardized tests are important to holistically assess an applicant.
Furthermore, the author states, “The intentions behind these objectives are good, however, diversity should not have to be a conscious effort. In a perfect world, diversity would just happen naturally.” In reality, this is not a perfect world. Better yet, this is certainly not a perfect country. The truth is that minorities are disgracefully underrepresented in Congress, the very institution that is responsible for passing legislation designed to protect the freedoms and liberties of all American citizens. Of the 100 current US Senators, only two are African American. (One is Mo Cowan, who is temporarily holding the seat that became vacant after John Kerry’s acceptance of Secretary of State) In all, only six minorities hold Senate seats. On the contrary, according to the most recent US Census, 21.9% of respondents would self-identify as something other than Caucasian. The House of Representatives also features a disproportionate number of minorities compared to the total number that reside here in the United States. In a perfect world, the number of minorities in Congress would reflect the current demographic makeup on the United States; it clearly does not. More, in a perfect world, everybody would be treated equally despite his or her race, color, religion, or sexual orientation. The continued suppression and mistreatment of women, gays, minorities, and Muslims shows us that this world is far from perfect.
The author is right, however, about one thing. Diversity is about a lot more than skin color. It has to do with what geographic region you come from, your socioeconomic standing, your religious beliefs, and your political ideology. Providence College is one of the most homogenous schools in the country. College Prowler ranks PC as the 26th most Conservative and 1288th most Open-Minded school based on all the colleges and universities in the country. More, in the category of diversity, PC received a D+ letter grade, and rightfully so. Providence College students can be easily identified in downtown Providence or riding the RIPTA. Simply look for a white kid who hails from an upper-middle class family from the Northeast and dress like they are modeling for an Abercrombie and Fitch magazine. These facts are alarming, and are surely nothing to laugh about. Providence College will not truly be seeking to become “more diverse” until it starts accepting more students from outside of New England, from lower income families, and whom do not self-identify as Catholic.
The author ends her article by proclaiming, “There is no need for an entire diversity plan to be made, a diversity committee to be formed, and special multicultural employees be hired, as PC has done, in order to create a more diverse student body. Acceptance can be taught without choosing people based specifically on skin color. Doing so creates racism and unfair advantages.” It is ironic that the author depicts whites as the victims of racism, when in fact Europeans have been the cause of the mass genocide and enslavement of Native Americans, African Americans, and Jews. The racism the author speaks of is not a result of affirmative action, but instead of the current US political system, which does not do nearly enough to grant justice to and advance the status of minorities. Not only does Providence College need a plan, commission, and special employees to help fix the diversity issue, it needs reevaluate its definition of diversity in general and require students to take courses that open students’ eyes and promote the importance of diversity in any functional environment.