Actions, not words.
Students within the last few years have spoken out against racially insensitive content uploaded, written or spoken by classmates.
When incidents involving diversity intolerance have flared up at Penn State, there is an outcry from some students calling for change at the university.
For a few moments after each incident, “diversity” is a virtual buzzword on campus. But the conversation — for many — dwindles quickly, and our collective attention seems to move on to new topics.That’s not the case for everyone. In fact, the Black Caucus, Latino Caucus and Asian Pacific Caucus held an open student forum last week with President Rodney Erickson to discuss issues of diversity on the Penn State campus.
Questions and comments ranged from discussions of death threats made toward a student in 2001 to the recent incident of offensive writing in on-campus residence halls to diversity relations in the learning environment.
And yet the turnout was dismal. The room in Chambers Building was only sparsely scattered with audience members, including a small handful of student leaders and administrators.
The turnout was disappointing on several levels — for one, the breadth of issues discussed.
Those in attendance posed difficult but important questions, some of which administrators were not able to answer with definitive solutions. Some asked about plans to increase diversity awareness among faculty and staff. Others talked about experiences where peers felt marginalized in the classroom or elsewhere on campus. At one point, the discussion focused on financial barriers as an obstacle to retaining students from a variety of backgrounds.
And beyond talking points, here was yet another event where the university president made himself available for questioning, only to have several dozen people actually take him up on the opportunity to engage in conversation.
If you don’t want to speak at forums like the one that was offered last week, there’s little harm in simply attending events where diversity is discussed. It might be uncomfortable for some students to hear what Penn State is like from another perspective, but opening yourself to others with different opinions than you can go a long way. Once you listen to others, you will realize that you have some things in common with someone you never thought you could.
You may have never been the subject of a hate crime, but there’s no excuse for turning a blind eye to the reality that discrimination and hate is all too present — in cases both reported and unreported — at Penn State.
Taking an hour or so to attend last week’s forum would have been a simple yet important action for many, particularly from so many of the students who have come forward to pledge a greater commitment to diversity awareness in light of recent incidents.
Our actions speak much louder than our words ever could when it comes to our concern for promoting a more inclusive campus. Unfortunately, the attendance at last week’s forum spoke volumes about what this campus thinks about diversity.