Diversity integral to leadership

Recent reports suggest we should reflect on why diversity matters in the first place.

by David Ly

We, as students, staff and faculty at the University of Minnesota, could talk about the importance of diversifying the racial demographics of the University student body until we are blue in the face. It will not, however, amount to anything if we do not fundamentally understand, why diversity is an important concept. The Minnesota DailyâÄôs April 5 report âÄúRace on campus: A work in progressâÄù shows that the University is lagging in terms of fostering a diverse student body, and IâÄôm not very surprised by that. According to a poll by The Washington Post in January 2009, âÄú22 percent of white Americans believe that racism is a big problem.âÄù One might derive from this information that a large number of those in our student body, or others on campus, most likely think having a diverse campus is not a priority for the University. Because of this, it is more difficult for diversity-centered student groups, initiatives, events and departments to facilitate the development of non-white students at all educational levels. In turn, the cycle continues. With only a small amount of the campus dedicated to ending economic and academic disparities between white and non-white students, only so many minority students attain the resources that allow them to achieve in the United States. Thus, the University is forced to use programs such as Access to Success to increase the amount of minorities on campus by allowing âÄústudents whose high school grades and test scores would not normally grant them admittance to the University of Minnesota.âÄù For more information on this, see the Daily article on Access to Success published last fall. Not only does this force Access to Success students to take a class that may set them a year behind everyone else, it increases the resentment toward minority students because, IâÄôm sure, some will claim Access to Success students âÄústoleâÄù another studentâÄôs spot at the University of Minnesota. To effectively make our campus more diverse, everyone needs to understand what it is about diversity that makes it integral to a successful university and a successful United States in the future. First, diversity allows one to observe and learn different cultures and their values. Second, diversity forces one to have better cross-cultural communication skills, which are important no matter where you are. The last and most important example of the benefits of diversity is that it always leads to richer results. Diversity bestows each of us with a more expansive slate of concepts and tools to utilize in decision-making, in leadership, in academic theses, in conversation and in all creative pursuits. With that said, I challenge you, readers, to reflect on how diversity is or is not important and speak your mind about it with your friends. Talk to them about it and ask them what they think, because our society cannot move forward if we donâÄôt have these conversations. David Ly University undergraduate student and research assistant