Much has been said about diversity at Baruch: From that we are the most diverse college in the United States . . . to that we don’t make maximal use of our diversity.
This semester, several students in my classes made poignant comments about integration. The first student (as part of a class presentation) recounted her freshman experience. Prior to the first day of classes, she had been very much looking forward to meeting many new people at Baruch and making friends. But the minute she set foot on campus, she said, she knew that it was not going to happen.
Another students wrote as part of a reflective essay on intercultural friendship: “As a student of Baruch College for the past two years, I have not made many friends. And for the few friends I have made, none of them are outside my own culture, which is a white American. This is not because I do not want friends outside my own culture; actually having friends from other cultures would be exciting for me. I feel that lack of communication and building of friendships between cultural groups at Baruch is absurd. This is a matter that has actually always bothered me since I started attending Baruch College. It seems to be that there is a tendency for students at Baruch to stay within their own cultural boundaries. . . . I would really like to see some change at Baruch regarding this matter. I feel it is of high importance and would make the school itself more appealing to the general public and surrounding communities.”
Finally, a third student commented about being gay at Baruch: “The whole topic of being gay for a young person in these classes is difficult because they have to matriculate through their four years with their fellow students, and if it’s only a small part of their identity, it would be a shame for them to be seen first as gay. . . I would not be comfortable having people gossiping about me for four years. It is odd to me that I even feel this way considering how normal gay is to me in my ‘real’ life and how omnipresent it is the pop culture. . . . I believe that many gay people who are asking for equal rights feel they are on a similar track of where black people were in the 60s.”
He later asked me whether we, as educators at Baruch, are trained at this topic. Maybe we should start thinking about such training? Or a discussion or workshop series of how to assist students in their integration efforts? Any thoughts?
This is the same type of thing in many campuses and companies as well. Although more diverse than ever, people are still segegrated. People have to learn the actual benefits of diversity before they fully embrace it.
As I had mentioned in an earlier post having a “Cultural Exchange Day” in which students bring items from their home cultures, however they define that, and present them to their classmates is a great icebreaker early in the term and a way to get students from different backgrounds talking and relating to each other. And any class can have them. If its a Business class, items from the economic sphere such as currencies, or items for export, can be brought in. A history class can focus on historic cultural items, etc ..
I agree with Clint, though. The Baruch administration only gives lip service to diversity and does nothing to tout it or promote intercultural communication either amongst the students or the faculty. It is up to us, the faculty, to do it ourselves. We have to reach out to each other.
As for the gay community, it appears to me that there has been more acceptance over the years, but yes, much, much more has to be done.
I enjoyed thinking about this post. I wonder… how do perceptions of integration differ if we look at those who participate regularly/actively in on-campus groups (clubs, sports, other learning communities) vs. those who simply take classes? Does the neighborhood in which one resides play a role? This is to say I wonder if students who are part of learning communities and/or live in more diverse neighborhoods experience more diversity at Baruch too.
These are all great questions, Will. Sounds like the makings of a research study . . .