Let's Diversify Our Conversations on Diversity
Samuel Breslow | Oct. 10, 2014, 9:07 p.m.
Diversity is a very popular topic at the 5Cs and for a good reason: While awareness alone isn’t enough to solve diversity-related issues, we can’t begin to address them unless we’re actively thinking about them.
That said, conversations about diversity at the 5Cs can also get repetitive, and many end up rehashing familiar points about three issues: race, sexual orientation and class. Those issues are extremely important, yes, but they are far from the only types of diversity, and by focusing exclusively on them, we often end up neglecting other types of diversity that sorely need attention.
Take, for instance, political diversity, an area in which the 5Cs are definitely lacking. A student poll conducted in 2012, referenced in research by now-retired CMC professor Ward Elliott, found that 96 percent of Pitzer students preferred Democrats to Republicans (the poll excluded third-party candidates), followed closely by Pomona at 92 percent and Scripps at 90 percent. Even CMC was at 71 percent. (The most recent data for Harvey Mudd College was from 2008, at which point it was one percentage point more Democratic than CMC.)
One of the main reasons that having diversity is important is that it exposes us to perspectives different than our own, thus forcing us to question our own perspectives and, perhaps, change them. Given that so many classes and activities at the 5Cs relate to political issues, isn’t it important to have conservative voices around to challenge the dominating progressive attitudes?
If we’re going to do more than lip service to the ideas about diversity that we claim to embrace, then I see no reason why political diversity shouldn’t be included (looking especially at you, Pitzer).
Consider also the idea of diversity of academic interests. This is something that Pomona, Scripps and Pitzer have plenty of, but that Harvey Mudd and CMC, by focusing on STEM fields and selected social sciences, respectively, have chosen not to pursue. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—there are plenty of advantages to specialization—but if we’re going to call ourselves liberal arts colleges, we need to question whether a lack of academic diversity is preventing us from receiving a well-rounded education and from being able to make valuable interdisciplinary connections.
Another lack of diversity at the 5Cs that isn’t necessarily a bad thing is the lack of gender diversity at Scripps. I have no problem with the idea of a women’s college, but I still think that it would be beneficial to include gender within the context of our discussions on diversity and to consider the implications that might have.
And what about diversity of academic aptitude? By our very nature as selective colleges, we will never have a representative sample of students who struggle greatly with academics. Is our education less comprehensive because we have not heard their voices in our campus dialogues? I don’t know the answer, but I think that we’d have something to gain by talking about it.
These are the conversations we should have, and the diversity umbrella is a perfectly appropriate place for them.
Rest assured, I seriously believe that the emphasis on racial and class diversity is well-placed. But calls for increased diversity across racial and class lines aren't often taken beyond the immediate benefit of diversifying the racial and socioeconomic makeup of the student body.
Overall, I find it extremely ironic that our conversations about diversity at the 5Cs tend to be some of the least diverse conversations we have. Race, sexual orientation and class are all topics we need to be talking about, but when they dominate our conversations on diversity to the exclusion of other, lesser-known types, we’re missing out on an opportunity to better our community and ourselves.
Samuel Breslow PO '18 is from Londonderry, N.H., and plans to major in the social sciences.