In my four years at Kent State, I’ve learned a lot about diversity. Oddly enough, not one bit of what I learned is in accordance with the definition of diversity prescribed by this institution.
I’ve been at Kent State for four years, but I’ve been in college for five. I spent my first year at Ohio State’s branch campus in Mansfield. In that destitute shell of a town between Cleveland and Columbus, where all of the economic instability and delusion of a better time in the past that plagues the other parts of Ohio to various degrees culminates and collides into a cynicism that church, state and academia currently have no answer to, I found more diversity in one year than Kent State has managed to display in four.
Coming from a 97.5 percent white town, I moved into an apartment with two black guys and two other white guys. Save for the one (white) guy who mooched food from everybody else, I got along well with my roommates. The first two friends I made outside of my living arrangements were an Egyptian named Hani and a Chinese guy name Kevin. It was not uncommon for me in a given setting to be the only white guy. In the ethnically and racially diverse group of friends I was a part of, we embraced our differences, sometimes to the point of joking about them. For example, my Halo nickname was “Saltine Cracka.”
Along with a desire to study journalism, which soon faded and I changed my major back to English, I was attracted to Kent State by its reputation for diversity. When I transferred here in fall of 2004, I was alone. I lived alone in a one-bedroom studio apartment and I knew nobody here. Being a very socially oriented person, I sought friendship in what I thought were groups centered around diversity. It didn’t take me long to realize that Kent State has a skewed definition of diversity.
The first group I got involved with was the College Democrats. Once the election was done and John Kerry had conceded, I found little purpose in sticking with the group, as I did not make very many friends. Being a Democrat apparently meant you have to believe in everything the Democratic Party holds to be true, which is very little.
Over time, I attended one or two meetings of other campus organizations from the politically motivated to those simply centered around a common interest. Each had their own set of opinions about whatever it was they were centered on and unless one adhered to all of them, one would be, often rudely, rebuked and corrected by an “enlightened” veteran of the group. While maintaining a few contacts from my campus organization-surfing days, I only stuck with each a short time and eventually realized that not belonging is the price for thinking for myself and quit bothering trying to find a group to be involved with. (Save the World, don’t worry. I only quit going because of schedule conflicts.)
This is where Kent State’s, and every organization within it, definition of diversity leads: divergence and alienation. There are many different groups on this campus, but most cater to a specific type of person. If you aren’t that specific minority, there is no place for you. A controversy that popped up last month has only reaffirmed this for me but unfortunately failed to shed light on it for the campus as a whole. Why did it fail to? Because there is no campus as a whole: We are segregated.
I’m a resourceful person and being such I’ve managed to find a group or clique to cater to one part of my person or another. Unless you are one of my close friends, and you all know who you are, you probably haven’t seen every side of me, and most of you who are my friends are not friends among yourselves. I miss having one group of diverse friends. Instead, all I could find at Kent State was a few mostly homogenous friend groups. Don’t get me wrong. I cherish the friendships I’ve made here very much, especially those with people who are very different from me since the social environs of this campus aren’t conducive to that.
In the last four years, the only place I have found a community of diverse people who embrace every aspect of each other has been away from this concrete eye-sore we call campus. I’m relieved to be graduating because I will have more time to spend with people who embrace diversity; a diversity that isn’t defined by the existence of various special interest groups based on shallow commonality. Thank you, Kent State, for teaching me to appreciate the diversity that only exists away from you. Adios.
Allan Lamb is a senior English major and all editor for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]