Our view: Inclusion needs no catch phrase

DKS Editors

President Lester Lefton’s Commission on Inclusion released its final report. And now we wait.

We wait to see if cultures can change by contrived means, and we wait to find out how determined the administration is to make it happen.

Lefton announced plans to form the commission in November 2007, and a little more than a year later, after hosting forums with a variety of people on campus to find the roots of exclusion, they’ve produced recommendations for making Kent State welcoming to diversity.

At the very least, acting on the commission’s recommendations will do the university no harm.

The problem is that most of the items on the 15-point list call for forced interactions among groups – events that seem like play dates. We’ll have to wait and see whether “specific connective activities” allow people of different backgrounds to engage each other in natural and humanizing ways. More likely they’ll simply cultivate attitudes of tolerance in which people just share space and get along.

The report recommends the formation of “a student commission to develop a ‘step outside your boundaries’ initiative that will create intentional, effective opportunities for students of all backgrounds to connect, with the goal of developing meaningful, long-term relationships with persons different than themselves.”

A commission is going to develop an initiative to do this?

One of the first steps in the summary of the 60-page report is to “brand” Kent State as welcoming to diversity in order “to secure ‘buy in’ to the mission, vision and value statements” of the commission. The slogan the commission offered was “Inclusive Excellence.”

All of it reeks of a marketing ploy. It’s like a news organization advertising its credibility rather than earning it.

The goals of the Commission on Inclusion are worthy. The action plan is too bureaucratic.

Some of the ideas make a lot of sense, though. One recommendation calls for diverse representation at all levels of faculty and staff. Another suggests creating an advisory committee to make sure that happens.

Accountability is an indispensable part of any action plan, and the commission covered that base.

Moreover, the report recommends issuing more recruiting and scholarship programs to bring more “high-achieving first-generation, targeted and underrepresented students.” This is an excellent idea. The more diversity at Kent State, the better its members can grow culturally.

But beyond these structural changes to the university, the commission’s final report offers little more than superficialities.

Kent State students, faculty and staff: We don’t need recommendations from a commission or mission statements on handbills to convince ourselves it’s time to become better people. A community that shares its diversity while recognizing its solidarity will be realized by way of individual interpersonal relationships independent of any institutionalized plan.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.