Diversity and Doing Our Part

It’s no secret that Cal Lutheran is a predominantly white university. I’m pretty sure most of the students here were aware of this when they looked into the school and committed, I know I definitely was. I had a friend whose brother and father had gone here and she did inform me ahead of time, but it wasn’t until a few months later when it fully hit me. It was April of 2018 and I had signed up to do the inCLUsive event with the overnight stay. I got to the admissions office where there was a group of about 20 other wide-eyed high school seniors wondering if this school was the one for them with decision day quickly approaching. Now, nothing seems wrong with this picture at first glance, but the longer I looked at the people surrounding me, the more I noticed how white most of the people there were, with the exception of about a total of five or six people of color.

Within the context of this small group, I’m not going to lie, I felt a little out of place. I come from the San Fernando Valley which is at least five times more diverse. There are greater concentrations of people of color, and at school, that was what I mostly saw. I had grown so accustomed to seeing people of different ethnicities that when I was put a new environment, I immediately noticed their absence. It was a bit unsettling while I was there and I hoped that it didn’t set the precedent for the rest of my time there, and it didn’t. But now, as I reflect, I can see a similar demographic being mirrored on our campus.

                                                                  Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Recently, I went to a “Courageous Conversation” hosted by the Center for Cultural Engagement and Inclusion, and the topic was surviving in Thousand Oaks as a person of color. At first, “surviving” felt like a bit of a stretch, but then as I heard some other people’s stories, I realized that to other people, it can feel like survival. Although I am a person of color, I can share that I have never felt oppressed at home or in Thousand Oaks because of where I’m from. However, other people are not that lucky, and I can see why, especially since in 2018, Cal Lutheran had a population of 43.8% whites. Even though that is less than half of the population, there is no other ethnicity that is represented to this extent.

                                                                  Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Something that many of us realized during our discussion was the fact that even though the school is making greater efforts to be more inclusive and diverse with their student population, you could say otherwise for their faculty. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this article when I realized that in the two semesters I’ve been here, all but one of my teachers have been white and even then, he was still half white. As much as people of color enjoy seeing others who look like them in their peer population, we would also like to see more representation in the professors who teach us as well. With diversity also comes various experiences that could be brought into the classroom, and that could genuinely enhance the learning experience for all of us no matter our backgrounds.

With courses like Chicano and African-American Literature, it would greatly benefit the students taking those classes if they were taught by professors who were a part of those cultures and could convey their personal understandings to us. The only way that we can get what we need to improve the quality of our college education. I’m not claiming that white professors are incapable of teaching, only that seeing different faces in the classroom can help provide us with a more worldly view due to being brought up in different cultures. This can also be comforting to students of color and especially international students because the presence of a person like them almost provides a piece of home and if they seem to be struggling, they will have a professor who understands what they are going through and can help them in a more beneficial way. Sometimes you never realize just how much you want to have person you can go to who can speak a language other than English with you and who can relate to your cultural experiences and references.

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In order to attain this deeper level of diversity in our school, it is up to us, the students, to fight for it. If we begin bringing this need to the attention of other faculty members, they can help show us a way. Even if we do manage to get the attention of the administrators who hire new professors and accept new students, we must keep in mind that these things take time and require patience. I have hope in the knowledge that Cal Lutheran is already trying to take these important steps, but it’s up to us, the students, to do our part and help them to realize just how necessary this is.