Land, Loyalty, and the Liberal Arts: How Diversity Should Be Presented on College Campuses

     It was a peaceful night when I was born in the city of Rajshahi in northern Bangladesh. Of course, in my first few hours of infancy, I understood next to nothing about myself—and even less about the world I had just been brought into. It wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. that I found out exactly what it means to be one of the “diverse.”

     When I came to the U.S., I spoke English, I wore American clothes, and I ate American food. Though I was very young, I can still remember quickly assimilating myself to the culture in this country. I was too young to understand exactly what assimilation was, but I was old enough to understand that I needed to fit in in order to have a normal life.

     That, of course, is the case no matter what country you immigrate to. But in the U.S.there has always been an incredible emphasis on the importance on what it culturally means to be an American, so much so that many immigrants have had to ignore their own traditions in order to truly become Americans.

     Such a dynamic also seems to be present on college campuses. While many colleges host students from different cultures and backgrounds, it is not necessarily a show of acceptance.

     Augustana College, while being a small liberal arts college, offers a lot of what students will see at larger state universities—including a diverse group of students. However, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the diverse population at Augie is simply used as a selling point or considered to be a way for students at a small school to meet people who have led vastly different lives and have unique stories to share about themselves.

     Augie’s Offices of Multicultural Student Life and International Student Life put together many events that allow students to explore different cultures, races, and ethnicities.

     But what about outside of these events? What about in the dorms and in class and even at parties? How are students approaching diversity when they are not being presented with it through organized PowerPoints and events?

     Land and loyalty is present in every culture. When immigrants finally get their American citizenship, they are asked to pledge loyalty to the U.S. I’m sure loyalty in such a context means to follow the laws of this land, but there is a different connotation underneath it all.

     To come from a country and a culture that I have known for so long and to suddenly be asked to be loyal to another country left me feeling sad. I felt as if I was forgetting the country that had given me my identity and my rich culture. I felt as if I was almost abandoning a part of myself.

     I can’t speak for all immigrants or all the people who have had to assimilate to this country, but I can say that transitioning from one country to another is not easy, and sometimes cultural differences become even more prominent on college campuses.

     As a liberal arts college, Augie gives its students multiple opportunities to explore the diversity that is present both on campus and around the world. However, diversity should not be presented as a selling point or as one of the many advantages of a liberal arts education. Instead, diversity should be a celebration of cross cultural identities and loyalties.