University defines diversity, but student leaders won’t be happy until they see action on campus

Bryan Wroten

As part of the university’s new Strategic Diversity Implementation Plan, the university came up with a definition for diversity.

While leaders of student minority groups see this as a good start, they said they need to see some action to go along with the words.

“On verbal level, that sounds great,” PRIDE!Kent President Amanda Boyd said. “Making a statement to define diversity doesn’t do anything to teach those who haven’t been exposed to diversity.”

The Strategic Diversity Planning Committee defines diversity broadly “to include important human differences such as gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, economic status, disability, age, religion and sexual orientation. Therefore, improving diversity at Kent State University entails a greater inclusion of these human differences where appropriate in the activities of the university.”

Steve Michael, vice provost of diversity and academic initiatives and co-chair of the planning committee, said he thinks defining diversity will lead to a better understanding of it.

“I’m a believer in attempting to define concepts that we expect people to walk on,” he said. “If you cannot define it, you certainly cannot measure progress, at least not convincingly.”

He said what the university is trying to say is the things that make people different from one another impact how people view life and reality. All of this is important in the search for truth, he said.

“Truth will not be truth if it’s seen by one perspective only,” he said.

Sasha Parker, president of Black United Students, said she’s glad the definition includes more than just race and ethnicity, but she said that’s probably because the campus itself is not very racially diverse.

When she was looking at colleges before her freshman year, she said she kept hearing that Kent State was racially and ethnically diverse. After choosing this university, she said it didn’t seem as diverse as advertised.

Parker said the university needs to focus as much on retention as it does on recruitment in order to keep its promise of diversity.

“It’s one thing to go after those (minority) students,” Parker said. “It’s another to keep them. Getting them here is not the problem. It’s how you try to keep them.”

What Boyd said she is looking for is consistency. She said the university needs to change its policies and actions if it wants to follow its own definition of diversity, citing the conflict over domestic partner benefits. This shouldn’t only apply to the administration, she said, because student organizations need to understand it as well.

Boyd was not as optimistic about the definition as Parker. She said it means she will only have to watch the university that much closer.

“It’ll make me more observant to how this definition is not fulfilled on this campus,” she said.

Until there is visible progress, Boyd said she won’t be satisfied.

Contact minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].