Let’s Diversify Our Conversations on Diversity

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.

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Samuel Breslow

Samuel Breslow is a sociology major at Pomona College graduating in fall 2018. He is TSL's Senior News Adviser, and previously served as News Editor, Development Associate, and Opinions Columnist.

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