Valerie wants you! To be a diversity advocate

VALERIE DAVIDSON | vdavidso@butler.edu | Guest Columnist

From Butler University’s humble beginning, its leaders have believed that education should offer a global commons where all people can meet with respect and tolerance to foster individual aspirations and fashion a common destiny.

In 1855, when race was considered an insuperable marker of superiority and inferiority, when women were considered the weaker sex, when college was the province of privileged white male elite, Butler University was founded on the vision to provide interracial coeducation to aspiring students.

My professional experience at Butler University began 28 years ago, when I accepted the newly created part-time position of coordinator of minority student affairs.

In 1986, diversity at Butler was almost non-existent. The culture and community was one of isolation, polarization, intolerance and indifference for the tiny population of students from underrepresented groups.

The Black Student Union was the only recognized student-diversity organization in existence.

Through the evolution and expansion of my initial position, I have enjoyed the privilege of contributing to the progressive transformation of the culture and climate of the Butler community.  This institutional initiative began in 1982 with the work of the Butler University Task Force on Minority Affairs, and it remains ongoing.

Today, Butler University represents inclusion and acceptance.  More than a dozen thriving diversity student organizations reflect a more richly diverse university in a more diverse city. The Butler Way celebrates the inherent ethnic and cultural diversity of the campus and greater Indianapolis community.

Butler University is no longer exclusive and isolated from the surrounding community. It is an inclusive and accessible community partner.

The Butler class of 2018 is the most ethnically diverse class in the history of the university at 14.7 percent. While the University should take pride in this achievement, we cannot become complacent. Achieving a diverse campus community involves more than simply increasing the enrollment of students from underrepresented populations. A diverse campus community is a community of respect and inclusion.

I encourage the Butler community – students, faculty, staff, alumni and external stakeholders – to become diversity advocates. Diversity advocates promote and strengthen an atmosphere of respect and inclusion through the following simple strategies:

  • Celebrate – Take pride in your individual heritage and culture, and share it with others. Knowledge and appreciation of other cultures facilitates a greater understanding and respect for our inherent differences. We can also discover our common interests and develop a more diverse perspective.
  • Communicate – The Butler community is friendly and interactive. However, the reality is that Butler remains a predominantly white institution. Share a meal or have a conversation with a person who is different from you. Reach out to an international student who has chosen to embrace the American experience as a member of the Butler community.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about other cultures and share information about your own. Through direct conversation and interaction, many cultural stereotypes and misconceptions can be dispelled.
  • Challenge – Challenge friends, colleagues and peers to step out of their comfort zones. Support student diversity organizations. Attend diversity programs and events. Spend some free time in the Efroymson Diversity Center. Don’t assume that you are not welcome at an event sponsored by the Black Student Union, Butler Alliance, Latinos Unidos or R.E.A.C.H. Diversity programs and events provide unique and invaluable opportunities for co-curricular inclusive learning.
  • Collaborate – We live in an increasingly global community. The collegiate experience should prepare students for life, work, service and interdependence within the global community. Collaboration with diverse individuals and organizations in academics, co-curriculars, leadership, volunteerism,and social engagement promotes greater unity and interdependence.

For those members of the Butler community who are already diversity advocates, thank you so much for your investment in our community of respect and inclusion. For those of you who have yet to make this investment, Celebrate, Communicate, Challenge, Collaborate and join the movement!

 

Contact Davidson at vdavidso@butler.edu

Valerie Davidson is the director of diversity programs and the Efroymson Diversity Center.

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