Diversity is not a number, it is a state of mind

JULIAN WYLLIE | Columnist

Butler University is not racially or ethnically diverse in comparison to other college institutions, from a statistical standpoint.

Thirteen percent of Butler students who enrolled in the fall of 2012 are considered racial minorities.

However, the national average is more than 30 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Depending on one’s perspective, promoting diversity with the help of affirmative action is either a worthy cause to uphold or is unconstitutional reverse-discrimination.

However, both sides of the argument ignore a key point.

While racial, ethnic, gender, national, religious and cultural classifications represent a basic form of diversity, there is more value in having diverse ideologies and ways of thinking.

The goal of higher education, especially for a liberal arts institution, is to achieve an enlightened worldview filled with a multitude of perspectives.

This includes a diverse student body, faculty and administration at Butler.

Racial diversity is only one tool to achieve that goal.

People of different backgrounds offer different perspectives of life based upon their knowledge and experiences.

However, race is not a substitute for true diversity.

A specific percentage of racial diversity in a place will not make race relations better on its own.

Only wisdom and tolerance can promote a healthy and understanding student body.

People equipped with these principles have a higher chance of building an inclusive community.

Of course, it is true that people have the desire to form exclusive organizations and associations, such as fraternities, sororities and campus clubs.

In no way do I oppose an individual’s right to come together with others and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend his or her common interests.

But the Butler community should not be satisfied with the status quo.

Achieving true diversity is a daily fight for progress.

Racism, classism, ignorance, hatred, violence, sexism, homophobia, ageism and intolerance are on the short list of enemies to humanity’s progress.

Butler students are known for their volunteer work and charitable efforts in the Indianapolis area. This collectivistic mentality needs to be replicated where it matters most: In the Butler culture.

These are lofty goals to pursue, but they are achievable if the effort is made.

Since becoming a Butler student in the fall of 2012, I have felt very welcomed by my peers.

The friendly atmosphere of Butler’s campus was an important part in my decision to choose Butler over other schools.

I later realized that building a diverse community is rather simple at its core.

The effort begins with a simple “hello” and “how are you?”

Every person at this institution has the opportunity to grow and learn from one another.

Breaking down the barriers between students will improve campus life in and out of the classroom.

Indifference can no longer be a defense. If one has the ability to make a difference, it is his or her duty to take action, no matter how small.

In short, I reference the wisdom of Frederick Douglass, who once said, “What I ask—is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice—if the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall!—all I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs!”

Give people the chance to display their character, thoughts, dreams and aspirations.

The Butler community should still reflect on the history of the world’s discriminatory past and its legacy of centuries-long inequality.

To move forward, a thorough assessment of yesteryear is critical to long-term success.

To remedy past transgressions, we must establish a new history.

Let The Butler Way be the beginning of social change.

Cartoon by Audrey Meyer

Cartoon by Audrey Meyer

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