Letter to the Editor: ‘The experience of diversity is your responsibility’

By on November 10, 2010

Though the controversial circumstances through which it occurred were less than ideal, both as faculty and also as an ethnic minority, I am pleased that the QU community is paying attention to the issue of diversity in a more focused way.

I have faith that the vast majority of our students already understand—if not explicitly then at least intuitively—the substantive importance of diversity in higher education. Moreover, I have faith that you already know that ethnic diversity is but one small part of the bigger picture. I have taught too many talented, thoughtful students over the years to think otherwise.

However, it is also clear that the relevant terms in this dialogue need to be more clearly defined. My encouragement is for QU students to not wait passively for the administration (or even well-intentioned faculty) to do it for them. And the test of the quality of that articulation is not going to be in some flowery/jargon-heavy “politically correct” ball of useless and impotent platitudes. No, it will be in how each of you, as intelligent young adults at the university-level, has taken the initiative to find creative and courageous ways to actualize it into reality. Your actions will speak the words that you seek.

This is *your* university, students. Take ownership of your involvement here. You are not guests. This is your alma mater. Your community. The experience of diversity—or lack thereof—is your responsibility.

Whoever the newly-appointed “assoc. director of diversity programming” turns out to be—whether he or she is an African-American, Asian-American, Native-American, Latin-American, of mixed heritage, or a Klingon—my personal hope is that he/she will be able to empower you to acknowledge and act upon that basic and undeniable truth. Your position and participation, as members of our community and simultaneously the reason for this institution’s existence, matters more than any “official” title or activity.

No amount of administrative planning and programming—or even some numerically significant percentage/ratio of minority students admitted—can be a substitute for your personal willingness to engage one another in meaningful ways.

To challenge your preconceptions of others and yourself, to acknowledge the differences that matter while affirming the commonalities that unite— without such experiences, your education here cannot be considered complete and the strength of our community will be diminished as a result.

Joo-Hwan Lee

Adj. Professor; Department of Philosophy and Political Science

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