Of all the words in the English language, the term “diversity” is not one of my favorites. It is one of those words like “society” or “globalization” that are often slugged about in general conversation, weighing it down like a brick tied to a balloon.
Other than sounding clunky, the word “diversity” lacks specificity and distinction. Stop any UVM student lounging outside the library and ask them to define diversity, and they will most likely give you a blank stare, a snarl, or, if they are having a really bad day, a mist of pepper spray.
Diversity is a word that is used quite a bit at UVM: in classes, on the website and in any form of literature aimed toward prospective students and parents. The UVM website says, “Our student population includes people from a variety of races, ethnicities, genders, classes, sexual orientations, abilities and religions, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Well then. While it is nice for UVM to say it is gung-ho for diversity, the statistics are a bit out of line. According to the “Headcount Multicultural and International Student by Unit” posted on the UVM website, in fall 2007, there were a total of 841 multicultural students and 264 international students. In 2007, there were well over 9,000 undergraduates.
College Prowler, a popular website that gives colleges grades for academics, housing, athletics and more gave UVM a C- for diversity, highlighting that 92% of undergraduates are white. In comparison, Boston University received an A, while the University of Massachusetts was given a B-.
Quite frankly, I am not in the mood to whine about how UVM should make efforts to increase diversity and eliminate the mandatory diversity requirement. That is obvious. Of course UVM should be doing everything in its power to increase diversity, and it isn’t shy about promoting that goal.
However, looking at the statistics and the fact that the most recent website update is from 2007, its clear that increasing diversity is not the No. 1 priority. Otherwise, in 2011 there would be a noticeable difference on campus. Instead, what catches your eye as you stroll to class are the shiny new buildings and the construction sites.
But there is another angle to this story. While UVM students all say that the school should be more diverse, I think we are all comfortable in our bubbles. We are busy with our schoolwork, friends, weekends and wondering if so-and-so or what’s-his-face will ever return our texts.
I think we need to be more honest with ourselves. If given the choice to rank preferences of a.) having a more racially diverse student body or b.) having fancy new apartments on Redstone Campus, which would you put first on the list? Although we claim to want increased diversity, we place greater priority on the other things that we demand from the University.
We have power as students. Although it sometimes seems as though all we do is pay the bill and show up for class, we do have the ability to show the University what is important to us. If groups such as ALANA, LGBTQA or the Center for Cultural Pluralism become some of the most popular groups on campus, the University will take note.
In short, do more than just say that the University should expand diversity in the student body. Join clubs that advocate for it, make posters that spread awareness and continue to host and attend events where diversity is a focus. Increasing diversity at UVM will only become a priority when we make it one for ourselves.