Easy approaches to diversity have failed the CMU campus
For the past six weeks, I have been going through The Tartan?s archives in order to publish our Almanac. I?ve retrieved copies of newspapers printed in 1955, 1980, 1995, 2000, and 2004 in order to give campus members a better idea of our history. There are no more regular newspapers for me to pull from the spring of 2004, though: Following the ?Natrat,? The Tartan stopped regular publication for the remainder of the semester.
Even without these newspapers to provide a written record of last year, there is a story that can be read everywhere you look on campus. It?s been one year since the publication of the ?Natrat? and not enough change has occurred on this campus.
There has been a lot of discussion about changes made at The Tartan in the past year; we even dedicated an entire issue to writing about it. Yet the ?Natrat? showed us that not only did The Tartan need to change, but substantial problems exist on our campus that have remained unaddressed for too long.
It?s easy to wring our hands and blame various organizations throughout the University for the problem. Answering the question ?Who ignored the report?? is less important than answering the question, ?Why was this problem ignored??
Why is it that whenever there are meetings on this campus to discuss diversity, they don?t get anywhere? Why are these conversations on the matter circular and largely uninformed? Why are students almost universally unable to talk about anything beyond their own personal experiences in these forums?
I see two major reasons why students on this campus seem largely incapable of a progressive discussion of these issues. Firstly, the administration is too deeply wedded to the notion of monocultural organizations. Secondly, there is not enough academic support for African-American studies and women?s studies.
The first problem is one that is often addressed but rarely analyzed. People seem to have an instinctive distaste for groups such as SPIRIT and ASA, but I always assumed that was just the status quo?s fear of organized minorities. These organizations play a fundamental role for their members, providing community and a sense of solidarity.
While these groups play an important role, though, it is misguided to expect radical change from them. Groups dedicated to a single race or ethnicity will always be surpassed by those that fight for diversity by practicing it. Some of these cultural groups do a better job than others and all claim to be open to everyone, but most are dangerously homogeneous. Yet Warner Hall and other leaders on campus include only these homogeneous groups in their programming and ignore those who are dedicated to both fighting for racial equality and practicing multiculturalism.
The second problem is simple. It?s time for CMU to put its money where its mouth is and create an African-American studies department and a women?s studies department. Right now we have minors offered by other departments, but we need students on this campus who are here to study these complex and subtle issues.
Thirty years ago, students across the country demanded these departments in order to better understand the world around them. While to others this idea might seem antiquated, I believe these departments would provide this campus with students who could better analyze and address many of our problems.
It?s easy to draw students from each cultural organization, let them give a three-minute speech, and call it diversity. It?s much harder to take these issues seriously, study them with the rigor they deserve, and create diverse, heterogeneous organizations. It?s been a year of living easy; it?s time to bite the bullet and make some real changes.