Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The longer you work here, diverse it gets

Okay, maybe there's time for one news article. The Current is UMSL's weekly student newspaper, and this week's issue is a doozy. I've been critical of campus papers for being sophomoric, uninformative, or (in the opinions) downright nonsensical. This is an actual news article, but I'd challenge you to tell me what it's actually about.
"We live in a global society," said Malaika Horne, chair of the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative. "How can you interact with different nations if you can't interact with different ethnic groups in your own country?"

The Chancellor's Diversity Initiative, previously known as the Task Force on Diversity calls itself "cultural diversity in action."

According to Horne, they want to first enhance diversity on campus. Then, identify what is already occurring, find the gaps that exist, then take diversity to the next level.

The initiative is actively taking a role in shaping the acceptance of a diverse population at UM-St. Louis.

"We're walking the walk," said Gerda Ray, Associate Professor of History. "We make sure the initiative is diverse, including faculty, staff and students." Ray has been a member of the initiative since it was started in 2004, when it was started as a task force.
Okay, so what is this "diversity initiative?" No idea. The article does little to say, beyond quoting lots of diversity claptrap from members of the task force (or whatever it is). What does this group do? Sit around and talk about the diversity on campus and its diverse groups. What does that mean? They never say. It's probably the standard, "ethnic/minority/sexuality student groups" and so forth. I always feel a little left out when people go on about diversity without mentioning me. When do I get my White Student Union or the Straight Student Alliance? (By the way, if you can't read sarcasm, you're best bet is to go up to that "back" button on your browser and start clicking for all you're worth)

But why on earth was this article, with about 12 paragraphs of sloppy boot-licking, even written? Well, from what I can tell, the "initiative" wants to change the photographs representing the school, so that more "diversity" is represented therein. In other words, there's too many white people in the pictures. They don't say it, but I'm willing to bet that's the end result. Is it a legitimate grievance? No idea.

My main gripe here is the utter incomprehensibility of the article, the density and silliness of the quotes, and the paucity of actual news to be reported. What was the point of all of this? And why do these people get paid to sit around and slaver about diversity? Remember when universities were actually concerned with educating students?


Jen said...

Exactly how many times CAN you use the words "diversity," "initiative," and "group" in the same article? My head hurts.

Re: university education: I spoke to a customer today who thought our shipping information was misleading. It's not. Everything relevant is there for the customer's review while placing an order. When I explained this, he replied, "I have a master's degree in English, I think I know how to read, and your website is very misleading." I had to work very hard not to tell him he'd wasted his money.

Mani said...

The article is vague, and poorly written, but far from incomprehensible. It seems that the Diversity Initiative is seeking to promote the visibility (and acceptance) of its diverse (white AND non-white) student and faculty populations, while ensuring that the Diversity Initiative itself is run by a diverse leadership.

What they will specifically do to achieve their goals, and what their goals are in quantifiable terms, aren't mentioned in the article. That doesn't mean the DI hasn't thought of those things (lack of evidence is not the same as contrary evidence). There's no sign that this is at odds, or in the place of, the school's "concern with educating students."

Personally, I'd wager that well-established and paid professionals know what they're doing slightly better than a student who reads a vague article. But maybe that's just coming from the perspective of working in and with virtually identical diversity initiatives in one of the largest financial services firms in the world. Our buzzlines were, unfortunately, about as vague as this article - our specified timeline, goals, quotas, metrics, and projects were not.

You get your "White Student Group" when you start it. It's not prohibited; any backlash you may encounter is de facto verbal intolerance, not institutionalized and enforced intolerance. There's no hypocrisy.

Incidentally, I strongly doubt you'd encounter institutionalized racism against whites, given that whites comprise the majority of all of the following:
A) your college population
B) your college faculty
C) your state population
D) your state government population
E) your national population
F) your national government population
G) the population of celebrities constituting powerful political and social lobbies
H) the population of high-level management in the entire financial services and media industries.