Liana Riley is a political science junior and Mustang News columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the editorial coverage of Mustang News.
The current issue on our campus is voices.
Whether it is the lack of awareness of certain voices, too much power of majority ones or a complete indifference to the unheard, our problem is surrounding those voices.
We must strive to pass the microphone in the direction of those who either feel their voices have been muffled, or simply want to have a larger platform on which to tell their stories.
To some, diversity is a number, a percentage or a quota to be met, something that can only be measured quantitatively. This has been the attitude of the administration for as long as I’ve been at Cal Poly; raise the percentages and ignore the realities was essentially their mission statement when pursuing their quest for real diversity on campus. Instead of enhancing campus resources that connect directly with the students, the administration adopted words of inclusion and empty rhetoric from a purely public relations standpoint.
We have a department of Diversity and Inclusivity, with the Campus Climate Survey serving as its claim to fame. It is up to the student body to consider whether or not these are the appropriate steps to increase diversity on campus, and whether or not that is of any value to us in the first place.
If you feel that your interests are already represented on this campus, put yourself in the shoes of those lacking the transparency to express their narratives, whether that includes discrimination, ignorance or those micro-aggressions that everyone has been talking about.
A micro-aggression is essentially a commonplace remark or action that undermines or dismisses someone’s racial identity. So, they foster an environment of intolerance and discomfort whether intentional or not.
This is where the lack of diversity question truly comes to a head. If we are not constantly vigilant about being surrounded by those individuals with different ethnicities, backgrounds, etc., how can we ever be consciously aware of our dismissal of their identities? And when does it cross the fine line between misunderstanding and discrimination?
This phenomenon could be avoided by the existence of diversity in itself without much other effort. If diversity simply existed at Cal Poly, if our racial minority population wasn’t so low, then there would be limited cries for change. This is not to say that integrating diversity is a quick fix by any means. Of course there will still be students who feel unsafe and uncomfortable on campus, regardless of any preventative efforts made by the administration.
But if the university is going to conduct a campaign surrounding its championing of all potential diversity issues, it has to do more than simply erecting a department and conducting a survey.
Implementations of Race and Ethnicity centers, LGBT and social justice centers and a space for women’s interests and leadership, are radical steps, but important if the Cal Poly administration is serious about their efforts. Though these suggestions seem like extraneous programs that would exist solely to increase spending, many public universities like Rutgers in New Jersey pride themselves on initiatives like these.
Most important is the purpose these centers serve. If our diversity and community engagement centers were given the funds to put on large panels, conferences and campus wide discussions, then maybe there would not be a need for the aforementioned implementations.
It simply begins with a voice, one that has been discounted and muffled, and letting them speak and explain their narrative, regardless of whether or not you agree with it.