Diversity Requirements: Inside and outside the classroom

Each and every student in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Vermont is required to experience diversity inside the classroom. Unfortunately, the majority of UVM students will have trouble experiencing diversity outside of their diversity requirement classes. It is no news that the UVM is roughly 90 percent Caucasian. The other 10 percent consists of international students and students of other ethnic backgrounds. Clearly, the University is already at a disadvantage in exposing its students to other cultures because of the immense racial gap, however, at times the University seems to accidentally segregate the campus even more. The Living/Learning center, while it means well and does offer an incredible interdisciplinary educational experience, can at times undercut its own goals. L/L offers program housing such as the Chinese House, the African Cultural Traditions House, the Japanese House and several other options including more activity-based housing. Unfortunately, these options seem to encourage minorities and international students to stay in their comfort zones and stick together instead of venturing into the great white sea that is the average on-campus dorm. This poses two distinct problems. First, the international students lured into this safe zone do not get to experience actual life in Vermont, but instead live in their own microcosm of students from their respective countries or backgrounds. Secondly, the rest of the UVM community does not get the cultural interplay that can only be created by living with and spending time with others of different backgrounds. In my average class of 40 people, there are often only one or two minority students. In my dorm of more than one hundred, there are at best six or seven minority students. When you visit L/L you enter a wonderful world of diversity and culture. You hear languages and music from all over the globe. Yet as soon as you step out onto the campus, you fall back into the monotony of alabaster faces. In a well-functioning, healthy society, all members are integrated and interact with all other members. Ideas are exchanged, cultures are absorbed and differences are celebrated. My experience at UVM has been sadly devoid of this cultural melding that I find so vital to a truly well-rounded education. The purpose of my column is not to denounce the programs or ideas of the Living/Learning community but to simply comment on this disturbing trend that others and I have noticed. If UVM really wants to mandate the teaching of diversity classes, they should make sure the lessons are available in both hemispheres of life: academic and social.