MCINTYRE: Making diversity more than a statistic

Liz McIntyre

Villanova’s lack of diversity is no small secret. However, if the task of diversifying is largely left up to affirmative action and similar practices, then students will have little control over the makeup of our student population.

While admissions practices work to diversify Villanova’s racial makeup, they do not solve our fundamental issue.

Segregation on campus seems to naturally self-perpetuate, but not out of hostility. Many Villanova students generally do a good job of passively accepting the cultural distinctions exemplified by ethnic and racial identities. Still, we tend to stop there: we chalk our differences up as a cultural thing and then continue on in our attitudes and our comfort zones. Though our generation prides itself on being more widely accepting than previous cohorts, we do little to combat the comfort we find in those similar to ourselves, culturally or otherwise.

In reality, diversity is more than a statistic; as an active rejection of stereotypes and a welcoming inclusion of all, it requires a collective change in attitude. This shift in widespread mentality cannot merely be attained; rather, we must constantly work toward it.

Last week, StirFry Seminars’ founder, CEO and Master Trainer Lee Mun Wah, held a day-long training session on diversity and leadership. In one seminar, Lee Mun Wah began by teaching the Chinese custom of placing the last name first. Therefore, it would be appropriate to refer to him as Mr. Lee rather than Mr. Mun Wah, as Western thought would lead us to believe. The rest of the seminar employed similar exercises drawing attention to cultural nuances. For example, those of the group who were multilingual were given the opportunity to teach the rest of us how to say “good morning” and “thank you” in another language.

So why seek to diversify rather than unify? Or, given the example of language, why not put our efforts into proselytizing a global uniform language? Because even if we cannot communicate fluently in another language, the effort taken to do so can make the other party more comfortable in a uniquely personal way. More than a sign of acceptance, it is a sign of an active interest in the heritage of an individual.

As with all interactions, such a personal touch is unparalleled in its efficacy, particularly in communication and collaboration. It would be easy to accept the phrases and customs of other cultures as just a small glimpse into those subscribing to doctrines different from our own. Lee emphasized that those glimpses should not just represent for us an acknowledgment of different beliefs, but an appreciation of them.

Diversity will not be created by an admissions committee; rather, it is an expression of widespread value for those from all walks of life. This past weekend’s Indian celebration of Jadoo, formerly known as Diwali, marks a cultural tradition that is beloved by the Villanova community. When we take a similar level of interest in the myriad other cultural events that flavor our campus, as well as the people living those cultures daily, we will be closer to achieving diversity.


Liz McIntyre is a junior psychology major from Chapel Hill, N.C. She can be reached at [email protected].