Diversity: What Is It Really?

Most people claim that Colgate is lacking in diversity, that it is our one true flaw. However, I wonder how people define diversity. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as: “the condition of being diverse : variety; especially: the inclusion of diverse people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.”

Let me repeat the important part of that sentence: AS PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT RACES OR CULTURES. Not only race. Skin color is not the only factor of diversity. Culture, on the other hand, is not only an ethic definition. It is defined as: “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also: the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time.” This means that while a racial group can have a cultural aspect, there are also cultural groups that do not represent a racial group.

This is what I do not understand. When you look at the definition, nobody doubts that while race is included in the definition of diversity, it is not all encompassing. Thus, why do colleges and other institutions get bad reps for not having “enough” diversity and others are overflowing with it? Are they suggesting that our students are lacking in beliefs? Because I would not say that about any Colgate student.

Race is a mankind created idea because biologically, we are all 99.5% the same, race makes up very little of our genetic differences. We should celebrate our similarity then, and appreciate our differences—whether they are skin color, what our sexual orientation is, where we grew up, what music we like, what clothes we wear, or what television shows we like.

When I meet a prospective student who asks about the diversity on our campus, I would give a little version of this, providing examples. Yes, Colgate is a predominantly white campus. However, I would not say that I have grown up in the same manner as every other white student on campus. I lived abroad as a child, and have grown up with different experiences than others here. My outlook on things, therefore, is different than others based on this. How does this differ than what racial diversity does for a community? Isn’t the goal of a liberal arts education to get an assorted group of opinions and outlooks on life?

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