The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Lecture focuses on diversity at SMU

As we look around the SMU campus, is diversity what we see? This was one of the many questions asked in the series “Communicating Excellence: Celebrating Diversity in the Communication Arts,” presented by the SMU Division of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs this week.

Dr. Lorrie White, vice president of Student Affairs at SMU, and Anthony Tillman, director of Retention and Strategic Planning, concluded the series with their lecture, “Not Far Over the Rainbow: The Future of Diversity at SMU,” on Thursday night in the Meadows Museum Auditorium.

To break into the discussion of diversity, the lecture began by the whole of the forum singing “America the Beautiful,” followed by a powerful poetry reading from Emmanuel Sanders in which he proclaimed, “I am as dark as they come, but I too am American.”

The lecture emphasized that a justly diverse nation demands that all races be given equal opportunities and access. The reality is that race is still an issue in the 21st century, and it is the students’ duties as future professionals to understand the importance and magnitude of truly diverse environments and equal opportunity for all.

Tillman, a first-generation college student, examined the issues of access and opportunity for diversity, as he argued that under-represented minorities (what he defines as African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans) fall through the cracks between the number that enroll in universities and the number that actually graduate.

Tillman stated that in 2005, 10 million students enrolled in undergraduate universities. Of them, 33.3 percent were white, 3.9 percent Hispanic, 5.5 percent African Americans and 0.4 percent Native Americans. From these percentages, 65 percent of the white students graduated, while only 6.4 percent of Hispanics, 9.7 percent of African Americans and 0.7 percent of Native Americans received their degrees.

“How many of you have ever been in a situation where you looked around and no one looked like you?” Dr. White asked the audience as a little over half raised their hands. Questioning further, Dr. White argued that these situations probably made those with their hands high feel awkward and uncomfortable.

The reality is that students prosper when they feel comfortable and involved in their environments, however there still are minorities that feel like they do not have the same experiences as the majority students do on campus.

Sixty-one percent of incoming SMU students wrote on the surveys they took at AARO that affirmative action should be abolished. Affirmative action plays a miniscule role in the admission process, hindering whites a mere 0.2 percent and advantaging minorities by 200 percent.

Diversity has a much greater impact than just an evening of numbers. Dr. White explains that diversity is directly related to improvement of student satisfaction and GPA, as well as a healthier discussion and examination of differences.

“Students have a tendency to overestimate the level of diversity at SMU,” Allison Nicklin, a junior CCPA major, said. “How often do most students really interact with others on a day-to-day basis that are very different from themselves?”

There is an overwhelming need to continually teach students about the importance of diversity.

“SMU has not successfully become diverse yet,” Tillman said.

But, by being proactive and encouraging understanding about the positive impact of diversity on quality of life, students can begin to realize that equal opportunity for races is not that far over the rainbow.

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