The Case for Diversity
By: Mary Anne Fitzpatrick
Recently, university leaders in our state met to discuss a response to new National Science Foundation regulations on grants and grant management. A key component of the new regulations is diversity. During the course of the meeting, the College of Arts and Sciences was recognized by the convening officer for its demonstrated commitment to hiring a diverse faculty. Our current practices make us even more competitive for research support from NSF. I was gratified that the college’s efforts were recognized, but our policy springs from one basic assumption, that is:
Diversity is integral to our academic excellence.
A diverse faculty, staff, and student body –bringing together people of different races, ethnicities, gender orientations and physical disabilities — is vital to a first class and relevant education for all students. Within our classrooms, playing fields, and seminar rooms, we need to develop the ability to work with and communicate with those whose experiences, backgrounds, and approaches to solving problems differ, often radically, from ours. Communicating with those who do not share our frames of reference allows us to reflect on our own values and to articulate those values. If we create a climate where students spend their undergraduate years with individuals who come from the same background, the same religion, and the same political affiliations, we deprive students of the ability to work in a multicultural and diverse world. As we encounter those from different backgrounds, we develop not only our empathy and our imaginative abilities but also prepare for leadership in the twenty-first century.