Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass must be held to a higher standard on diversity

The Anti-Racism Rally held after the racial incidents in the Southwest Residental Area. (Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)
The Anti-Racism Rally held after the racial incidents in the Southwest Residental Area. (Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

It’s the start of a new semester and the new year is less than a month behind us. Like New Year’s resolutions, many students also have new semester resolutions, which include getting better grades, regularly using the Recreation Center and visiting professors during office hours. As a community, we all must uphold a single and important resolution for this semester and those that follow: hold the university to a higher standard.

Not many students need a reminder of the racially charged threats made against students over Columbus Day weekend last semester, but what many students need to remember is that those are not isolated incidents in the Southwest Residential Area.

At least one similar incident in Commonwealth Honors College (CHC) Residential Community did not receive campus-wide notice or an email from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy informing the student body of the event. In fact, when the residence director of the hall hosted a meeting on race for the entire building, approximately 15 out of more than 300 residents were present.

Meanwhile, students of color experience what can be described as micro-aggressions in many of their classes. Last semester there were some statements of pride from the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and Subbaswamy about how students numbering in the hundreds came out in support of those targeted for their race and the Ferguson grand jury results.

It’s shameful to say that the 15 residents that attended the racial sensitivity event in their CHC dorm represent a larger proportion of students than those who came out to the campus-wide events. To get even 5 percent of the undergraduate student body at a rally would require the attendance of more than 1,000 students, not just a few hundred.

But students alone do not bear the responsibility of fixing our university’s clear issue with diversity; the administration must do its part as well. With the vast resources at its disposal, one might assume that the University’s policies would be well informed and have significant effects.

To help make policy decisions, the dean of each college submits Equal Opportunity and Diversity reports to Subbaswamy.

I first heard about these reports last spring during my meetings with CHC Interim Dean Daniel Gordon. I remained highly interested in CHC’s EOD report due to my own experiences within the college and, to use Gordon’s own words, because “the topic of diversity is vital in CHC, especially since the opening of the new residential community. That CHC is the most ‘public’ of the colleges at our public university and therefore the diversity situation in CHC is emblematic of the university as a whole.”

In the spring, Gordon expressed his hope that I would keep my interest in the report and act as a consultant on it. For a semester and a half, I attempted to have Gordon uphold his word only for him to be continually obstructionist while simultaneously expressing his pride in the report.

My efforts did, however, yield a significant result by the end of the semester. In my last correspondence with Gordon, he told me, “the Equal Opportunity and Diversity report can’t circulate because they contain data that could be inaccurate.”

In other words, since the reports were written by deans and went to EOD, without being certified for accuracy, they could in theory be inaccurate. The report that, according to Gordon, goes to Subbaswamy’s office to inform the University’s diversity policies is being kept from students due to inaccuracy. This report, which covers a topic Gordon views as vital for the honors college, was never reviewed for accuracy.

Gordon’s actions and the lack of a guarantee that policy-informing reports are accurate demonstrate the University’s continued inaction in regards to strong support for diversity.

If UMass truly wanted to show its support of diversity and students of color, it might want fact check its reports. As a student body, we must demand better of our university.

Alejandro Oms is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected].

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    DiversityOneFeb 3, 2015 at 10:52 am

    I hear a lot about diversity and the need to expand it, but I don’t really understand what that means. Does it mean more non-white people for the sake of having more non-white people? Does it mean official recognition of ethnically diverse holidays? Does it mean a conduct code to make people of color feel safer? Does it mean more classes oriented toward ethnically diverse topics? Does it mean more diverse food on campus? For the life of me I can’t figure it out. Been hearing about diversity for a long time but it seems like code for “replace the white guys…” At this point in our culture’s evolution, as of 2012, white births are no longer the majority. Whites will soon be a plurality and “minorities” will become the majority. Judeo-Christian values, mores and the very foundations of this nation are being wiped away in many respects, and will be further degraded with each passing season. Racial and ethnic diversity is a developing evolution that will get here all on its own in just a few years. We’ve accepted as gospel over these past 50 years or so that immigration and diversity are good ends in and of themselves. I wonder if we will find in 20 years from now whether our multicultural society is really such a good thing after all. Things haven’t been looking good for at least the past 25 years and we are more fractured as a society than ever. There are many reasons: economics, unresolved racial tensions, divergent political philosophy, dwindling resources, automation, to name a few. This used to be the land of opportunity for those willing to brave the daunting odds to make it here, work themselves to the bone, and provide a better life for the future. But many have figured out that a crappy life here still beats a crappy life in another country, so they come for the benefits but not much else. I’ve have been asking this question of this university community for years, with not one intelligent answer: What is the great end of having as much diversity of possible? Why do we need people from every corner of earth in this country? What’s the benefit? Clearly, there is a benefit to bringing in the best and brightest who may contribute to the ongoing greatness of this nation, but that hasn’t been the case for at least 30 years now. So what is the ultimate goal? Alejandro, I’m asking for a thoughtful response on why diversity is such an important goal for it’s own sake?