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Embrace diversity

| Sunday, January 30, 2005

Diversity Awareness. It’s a catchphrase on campus and in our country’s politics, but what does it really mean? Most fundamentally, diversity awareness means realizing that other students are different (in race, color, or creed) than you are. Moreover, it means realizing that one’s actions should avoid marginalizing anyone, in the majority or minority.

That sounds great – who wouldn’t agree that the entire Notre Dame student body should be unified? The trick is figuring out how best to achieve this universal goal. The Senate Diversity Committee has faced this difficult question in its attempt to make Notre Dame a better community.

We have all seen mistakes made during attempts to change the status quo. Many stereotypes about the majority groups on campus have been made in the name of diversity awareness, demonizing them as rich, white and intolerant Catholics who could never understand anyone different. Likewise, the good-faith efforts of minority groups have been reduced to the actions of an angry few who need to “give it up.” The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle.

Diversity at Notre Dame must move beyond tolerance and towards relationships. An increasingly diverse student body serves no purpose if the different groups within that body do not intertwine. The purpose of diversity is to learn about one another and, in the process, learn about ourselves. So this message goes to all groups and students alike.

To the majority: leave your comfort zone and go meet new and different people. They exist, we assure you. This is a rare time in your life where you have access to people in your same position that could offer so many new things. We are all the same age, all students, all going through the same experiences. However, some of us come from different places and bring different perspectives. It is this opportunity to see life from perspectives other than your own that make college a rich and rewarding experience.

To the minority: There is no point in leaving home and going somewhere new if you are not willing to take in the experience. Joining a small group of people that are the same as you and sheltering yourself off from the rest gives you no potential to grow.

Understandably, it is at first comfortable to face a change with people that can uniquely relate to you. But what is the use of never relating to anyone else? In the end, we are all privileged to be here and we should all take advantage of the opportunities offered. Even if the Office of Admissions did all it could to ensure that each new class is more diverse than the last, its efforts would be worthless unless the kid from Panama gets to know the kid from Panama City Beach, Fla.

It’s Diversity Week at Notre Dame. Notre Dame can be a place where we will be able to openly discuss issues of religion, race and sexuality. We hope to dissolve social stratifications that limit students to sitting at certain tables in the dining halls. Conversations about coach Tyrone Willingham’s firing or gay rights shouldn’t begin and end with T-shirt designs. We must all realize that someone that disagrees with you is not necessarily ignorant; increased communication will enhance our university’s social and intellectual experiences. Please join us in a step toward establishing a closer Notre Dame community.

Nicholas Coleman

Senate Diversity Committee Chair

Jan. 30