Monday, November 14, 2005

Diversity and citizenship 

The headline of the campus paper today reads "SCSU diversity criticized". How so, when it turns out we have 34% more minority student enrollment now than in 2003? Is it a right-wing complainant that we've gone too far? No, it's our old friend Mike Davis:
"I'm leery of their numbers," said Michael Davis, associate professor of education. "They're manipulating percentages, but in a clever way. I suspect that the international students are being counted as domestic students."

Davis, hired 16 years ago to provide diversity training and multicultural education, said SCSU has been battling a reputation as a racially intolerant institution for years.

In 2002, Davis was part of a letter-writing campaign encouraging minority students in the Twin Cities area not to attend SCSU, calling the university a "hostile environment" for students of color.

"Diversity at this university is a joke," Davis said. "Students aren't aware of how bad it is for a person of color on campus until they're directly affected by it. The irony of the situation is that the administration refuses to listen to the people it brings in to address these issues."

Davis went on to say that the university would be better served by admitting to the public that problems exist and taking steps to fix them, rather than concerning itself with enrollment numbers.

"Be honest with the minority students you attempt to recruit, tell them they may be in for a rough time," Davis said.
There are a few points we need to make here. First, if you are hired "to provide diversity training and multicultural education" and you then send letters telling students of color not to come here, isn't that a confession of failure? You've had 16 years.

Second, all the other students listed in this article seem to disagree with Prof. Davis.
"I decided to attend SCSU because of the educational opportunities the university offers," Hightower said. "There is still an under representation of students of color, but I feel it's a good environment to spend four years."

..."I had heard the worst things about how minorities were treated at SCSU," Ezike said. "I chose to come here to see for myself. There is always room for improvement, but things have definitely gotten better during my time here."
Yet the headline writer only emphasizes Davis' criticism. Why is that?

Third, why does citizenship matter? Is he really proposing that an African student born in Africa counts less for "diversity" than an African-American? What is the basis for this claim? I get the cultural differences, but if you're going to argue for multiculturalism the contributions of an African are as valuable as those of an African-American.

Last, did someone say "Mike Davis"?