Getting the Word Out About the Benefits of Diversity
To generate positive stories about campus diversity, it is essential to use succinct and clear language. Here are some suggestions for framing diversity issues that are based on the latest research.
Use these points to generate stories in faculty newsletters, alumni publications, or student newspapers or as an outline for a newspaper op-ed piece, or a speech.
For research supporting these findings and many more studies demonstrating the educational benefits of diversity, see Diversity Works: The Emerging Picture of How Students Benefit by Daryl G. Smith, et. al. (Washington, D.C.: AAC&U, 1997). To order, contact AAC&U (pub_desk@aacu. nw.dc.us).
Public Support for Campus Diversity
Much recent media coverage has focused on campus diversity programs that are under attack. For instance, many stories have appeared about ballot initiatives in California and court decisions in Texas that threaten to diminish the diversity of public universities in those states. In addition to the messages based on recent research discussed above, new public opinion research can also be the basis of more positive stories about campus diversity.
The public does support campus diversity. The Ford Foundations' Campus Diversity Initiative recently commissioned a poll of Washington state voters gauging their attitudes toward diversity in higher education. It found:
It is more important than ever to get the positive message out and to build on the public's support for campus diversity.
The Campus Diversity Initiative Public Information Project will be conducting some additional polling in 1998. Watch for future poll results in upcoming issues of Diversity Digest. For complete results of the Washington poll, contact PR Solutions, 202/371-1999; (email@example.com).
"Only by working together--hammering nails, painting a house, planting a community garden, organizing a neighborhood day-care center--can anything between the races really change. . . Yes, that is the ultimate goal for a nation destined to become truly multicultural within the next few decades. That's why affirmative action in the workplace and in education--places where people learn to work together--is still essential." Seattle Times columnist Mindy Cameron expressing support for affirmative action as a tool for greater racial understanding. ("Breaking Down Barriers While Breaking Bread," Seattle Times, 27 July 1997).back to top
"The country is better served when minorities participate in the legal system as lawyers, prosecutors and judges and in health care as doctors and nurses. The state has a compelling interest in meeting these social needs. Race and ethnicity are perfectly acceptable criteria to consider in deciding the makeup of institutions--especially public colleges supported by taxpayers of every race and ethnicity." Portland Oregonian editorial stressing the importance of educating a diverse student body. ("Ivory Towers," Portland Oregonian, 26 July 1997).back to top
"Boalt Hall is a great school. But this whole thing--this affirmative action ban--is turning off a lot of people from going there. They say your race doesn't count for who you are. That's a horrible statement. My whole heritage, my whole culture--they're going to say that doesn't mean anything? That's going to hurt them badly." Student Eddie Lara explaining why he chose Columbia Law School over University of California's Boalt Law School. ("Fallout From UC Preferences Ban," Los Angeles Times, 28 June 1997).back to top
"My years at U-M have been enhanced by relationships with men and women from all cultures, classes, races and ethnicities. Such interactions are essential to an education. While courses teach us the history and academic value of diversity, friendships prepare us to survive and thrive in our global community. Good institutions consider not only what a potential student will gain from classes and course work, but what he or she will bring to the campus community." Former University of Michigan student body president Fiona Rose arguing that a diverse student body is good for all students. ("Universities Need Students Who Offer More Than Grades," Detroit Free Press, 17 July 1997).back to top
"Even though we live in a nation where issues of race are continually in the news, few of us have learned how to talk across racial lines. Our silence, aggravated by persistent social segregation, means that college is often the first opportunity many Americans have to live and work in a multiracial setting, and to engage in multiracial dialogue. And I've seen how hard it can be and how frightened many people are to begin a conversation about race. But I've learned that dialogue about racism can be a powerful catalyst for change." Beverly Daniel Tatum, professor of psychology and education, Mount Holyoke College, encouraging college dialogues on race. ("Overcoming the Culture of Silence on Race," Christian Science Monitor, 2 September 1997).back to top
"In addition to providing environments for education and intellectual growth, special-housing programs of all kinds also provide cultural-comfort zones. Research shows that students who participate in these programs feel that they become familiar with the college or university and the variety of resources available to them more quickly. They get to know other students more easily, and receive more attention from associated faculty and staff members. Their intellectual growth and social development are accelerated." Rebecca Lee Parker, Director, Ohio Unions, Ohio State University, challenging critics of ethnic housing. ("Why Special Housing for Ethnic Students Makes Sense," Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 September 1997).
back to top