What I’ve Realized Being a Mixed Girl at a “Diverse” Campus

At first glance the variety of ethnic backgrounds at Stony Brook University (SBU) makes it seem like a diverse school, but from my personal experience, the students at SBU aren’t actually mixing with one another. In the beginning, it seemed that SBU had many diversity initiatives which meant I would be able to have friends from multiple nationalities. However, from my experience it’s hard to meet students of various backgrounds.

Last year when I was deciding what colleges to apply too, diversity was an important factor for me. Being both Mexican and African American, I wanted to be around a wide range of people- people who are all different- which was one reason I personally chose to come to Stony Brook. In my time here, instead of seeing interaction between various ethnicities, I see self-segregation.

While I love the friends I have made at SBU dearly, none of them are either Mexican or African American, and as a mixed girl growing up around a majority of Hispanic and African American people, it’s a huge change. If the school says it’s diverse, then shouldn’t I have friends from various ethnicities?

In 2016, Best Colleges called Stony Brook the seventh most diverse campus in the United States based on data from the U.S. Department of Education. The ethnic diversity of undergraduate students can roughly be broken down to 35 percent white, 24 percent Asian, 12 percent Hispanic and 7 percent black. Although this data shows SBU has a high rate of ethnic diversity, it doesn’t mean these different ethnicities all interact with one other.

College should be full of meaningful interactions between people from various backgrounds, with different scars and ways of looking at the world. When schools talk about promoting diversity, they should be looking to promote cross-cultural interaction instead of just hoarding different groups of people.

In a New York Times article called “The Lie About College Diversity,” columnist Frank Bruni shares how he believes colleges should push interaction between ethnicities. The article speaks about “affinity groups,” or groups formed around a shared interest, which is what many students gravitate towards. Today, students seem to stay within their comfort zones, sticking to similar backgrounds and overlapping hobbies.

Stony Brook University is home to 353 clubs and organizations, of which 52 are cultural groups. I have noticed these cultural groups often tend to interact with other groups of similar culture instead of branching out. The Caribbean Student Organization (CSO), whose main goal is to foster unity among Caribbean students and to spread the culture across the Stony Brook campus through events, programs and general body meetings, and the Japanese Student Organization (JSO), whose main goal is to build a strong community of Japanese students and students interested in Japanese culture, are examples of large cultural groups who unite as one, but don’t seem to be uniting all together to share their different cultures.

A point Bruni makes is: “A given college may be a heterogeneous archipelago. But most of its students spend the bulk of their time on one of many homogenous islands,” which is saying colleges may be diverse, but students still stick together in groups of people with shared culture.

Diversity is a gradual process which involves personal interactions between students of different ethnicities. The human way is clannish and tribal, but students should break these barriers and stray from only sticking to one group. A way to stop self-segregation within colleges and universities is to take advantage of living in very close proximity to people who wouldn’t normally be together.

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