It takes more than policy

Diversity — it’s a word administrators, politicians and businesses use often. It’s almost become a new buzzword in touting the makeup of student population, faculty, communities or employees. It’s also a safe way to talk about race without actually having to say the word.

Diversity, of course, is a good thing. The concept covers everything that makes one person different from the next. Diversity means race, gender, nationality, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, politics, economics, current place of residence, hometown, family history, language, areas of interest — the list goes on and on and on. On the outside, two people who look alike are still able to add diversity to a group.

But, for the most part, the students on this campus don’t have a problem with someone else’s hometown. They don’t necessarily see a classmate’s socioeconomic status as something to argue about. Other aspects, such as sexuality, religion and politics, can lead to some potentially heated debate.

All of these pale in comparison, at least right now, to the discussions of race on this campus. While it’s great that the university administration and policy recognize that diversity is more than just one factor, the focus now should be on race. The university needs to encourage more discussion, more debate, more teaching about race. The campus cannot appear to be closed to this matter.

The editorial board is not alone in this. Following an invitation from Linda Piccirillo-Smith to speak to her College Writing classes, two editorial board members talked to her 8:50 and 11 a.m. classes. The class spoke openly about the past columns that ran in the Stater and the Black United Students mass meeting. They explained what they thought would be a good way to continue having open conversations about race.

It would require respect for each other, smaller groups so there is less intimidation and everyone gets a chance to speak, a sense of humor, and understanding that everyone is just trying to understand one another.

One of the biggest points students from both classes brought up was the need to feel support from faculty. They want to know that they are welcome to go to their professors and talk to them about this issue. It’s not that they think their professors are completely against it — they just want the comfort of knowing someone will listen to their concerns.

We couldn’t agree more with these points. What better setting to have discussions about race and other aspects of diversity than academia?

This university collectively has hundreds upon thousands of years of personal experiences to learn from. We, as students need to take advantage of this. The university must address our need.

We’re not asking the university to drop everything, rush in and save the day. We are nearing adulthood and should learn to solve problems, no matter how difficult. That doesn’t mean, however, the university shouldn’t be involved. It has the resources, the connections and the influence to make a great difference in tolerance and understanding.

Words are powerful, but only when they inspire action.

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