I first want to start off saying thank you to the author of the letter, Maya Tilmon. You brought up some great points that needed to be said, and I agree with you that our university is not free of racial tension. I also agree that more must be done to help all students and faculty become knowledgeable about diversity issues and “institutional oppression” that exists in our society.
What I struggle to understand is how you believe that another lecture series or a required course for all first-year students would help.
An article recently published in the Wall Street Journal by John H. McWhorter, linguist professor at Columbia University, describes my opinion more accurately and in words better than I could string together myself.
“More of these programs would be like thinking a car will run better simply with more gasoline,” McWhorter said.
What does another diversity lecture series really accomplish?
As a student in the College of Agriculture, I have been to lectures on the “importance of agriculture” and the “future of feeding the world” more times than I can count. Each speaker provides incredible information that would be great for non-agriculture background ears to hear. But getting those outside of the circle to come to an event like this is difficult. You may be saying that a lecture on racial diversity is way different and would be something much more relevant to students today. Surely we could get more people outside of multicultural student groups there.
To that I say relevance is in the eyes of the individual. While I may agree that a lecture on how to break stereotypes and institutional racism is important, I can find others who think the future of feeding a growing world population with less resources is much more important.
As for mandatory programming for university faculty and students? Ask students if we have ever sat through an effective diversity training before? Ask faculty members if those hollow exercises really meant anything? McWhorter also had a comment on this, much more eloquent than my own.
He said, “Since the 1980s, anyone familiar with the college campus scene knows that in private moments, undergraduates of all colors tend to wryly dismiss the ‘diversity’ workshops they had to attend at the start of freshman year as hollow exercises.”
I believe the K-State 8 is an effective way to increase students’ awareness of these diversity issues in a way that allows them free choice. This choice gives the student the excitement of choosing what they want to learn about, and they are more inclined to participate in meaningful discussion, rather than a mandatory classroom experience. Maybe the list needs to become more narrowed to select for effective classes or more options within departments should be available, but I stand behind the current system that exists.
I agree our society needs to continue to bring forth these issues of racial oppression and continue to make progress. But I also think that K-State is ahead of the game in this respect and is doing more in an effective way than most campuses across the nation.
Nathan Laudan, senior in food science and industry