ELIZANDRO: Character counts more than diversity does

John Elizandro

As a member of the Blue Key Society, I’m frequently asked by parents and prospective students on tours about the popular perception of Villanova’s lack of diversity. We’ve all heard the epithets uttered about “Vanilla-nova,” and there can be no doubt that compared to a school like Temple or Penn, our student body is statistically more ethnically uniform.

“Diversity,” like “multiculturalism” and “sustainability,” is one of those buzzwords in vogue on college campuses today. It’s common for many at Villanova to lament the seeming lack of diversity on our campus.

But is this really true? Do we really have a diversity problem at Villanova?

Like “sustainability,” diversity is a concept with no clear end result. It’s difficult to tell how we can truly achieve this mythical concept of diversity, or if it’s even possible to be truly diverse. For years, Villanova Admissions has had affirmative action policies in place that encourage helps minority students from various backgrounds to apply to the University. It seems, though, that, even institutional efforts that support under-represented populations have not been enough to appease those who scoff at Villanova’s lack of diversity.

For example, the Center for Multicultural Affairs recently hosted an event titled “Unfinished Conversations: A Diversity Discussion” with the hope of “breaking down the walls we have created out of fear or ignorance.”

The event brought Lee Mun Wah, a community therapist to campus to address the topics of racism and sexism. According to a write-up of the event published in this paper’s last issue, Lee bluntly declared to the audience that “everyone in this room is a recovering racist.”

While it is unclear how making a blanket generalization and a stereotype about a group of people will help eliminate blanket generalizations and stereotypes about groups of people, Lee himself and many in the audience seemed to agree that Villanova certainly has a problem with multiculturalism and diversity. One generalization used in the article was that “racism is prevalent everywhere.”

So are the people who mourn Villanova’s lack of diversity right? Does Villanova really pay inadequate attention to issues of race, sex and multiculturalism?

Well, as mentioned earlier, it’s a vague concept to measure, but perhaps this very paper might give us clues as to the answer. The last issue of The Villanovan alone included the above-mentioned write-up of Mr. Lee’s diversity seminar, an opinion column headlined “Making diversity more than a statistic,” a cover story that addresses the religious makeup of the student body and an article on an event hosted by the South Asian Multicultural Organized Student Association.

Does this really seem like the newspaper of a student body where “racism is prevalent”?

Truthfully, the most important measure of diversity and multiculturalism is far more simple. My own personal experience here, which I suspect is far from unique, has brought me into contact with people of innumerable races, religions, ethnicities and economic backgrounds.

I’ve met people here at Villanova from every corner of the country, and off the top of my head I can recall students from five different continents. And with the exception of the occasional (and well-deserved) New Jersey joke, we all seem to get along just fine.

Diversity is not about the statistical make-up of the student body, the number of multicultural organizations on campus or the number of diversity training seminars we host.

Martin Luther King Jr. once famously dreamt of a day where his children were judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Those who belittle Villanova’s diversity should spend less time examining the color of our skin and more time judging the content of our character.


John Elizandro is a sophomore business major from Radnor, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].