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Notre Dame loves diversity

Hien Luu and Edithstein Cho | Monday, October 10, 2011

No one can, or would, say that diversity is a horrible thing, nor can anyone say that our university does not have diversity. Our campus is abundant with diversity!

Cultural clubs abound, continually putting on fascinating cultural shows — even our dining halls join in with attempts at Mexican, Indian, Greek and Vietnamese cuisines.

Not only do we offer American dancing for freshmen, but we also have Latin dancing to spice up our steps and swivel our hips. We can all say that we have at least one friend — or at least an acquaintance — who is not of the same race.

Some of us can also say that we have experienced other exotic cultures through study abroad programs, such as the miniature Notre Dame in London. We also have a great fascination with Africa. We are just so exceptionally inclusive.

“Diversity is at the heart of our university,” Father Jenkins said in a diversity video shown to half-awake freshmen in Contemporary Topics.

He is implying that not only do students embrace the different cultures here on campus with enthusiasm, but the administration also actively works toward fomenting the kind of inclusive environment that would allow for such differences to thrive.

It is evident that the University of Notre Dame has been working towards this statement.

Diversity is one of the topics covered during freshmen orientation. “Diversity Day” during Contemporary topics and “Practicum in Diversity Training” recruits from the student body to lead the freshmen in the topic.

We have Multicultural Student Programs & Services and an abundance of other cultural groups dedicated to supporting historically underrepresented students on campus.

These groups provide opportunities for the entire Notre Dame community to become aware, learn and fully appreciate the beauty in differences.

However, what does overall participation for such opportunities tell us? What about the existence of ignorance and intolerance toward other cultures and races?

What about the fact that many minorities want to transfer out of Notre Dame during their first years at the university? Such factors should compel us to ask if diversity really is at the heart of Notre Dame.

On Apr. 23, 2009, Scholastic published the article, “The Diversity Dilemma.” A student named Phan expressed her concerns about ethnic diversity through student attendance in cultural events.

She said, “At cultural events, you don’t see as many white people unless they’re with another Asian person who has forced them to come or another black person who has forced them to come.”

It’s not like they see it as an opportunity to branch out outside their circle and experience something new that they’ve never been able to experience before. I’m pretty sure many white people here haven’t tried to do anything that’s part of a real culture’s experience. It just doesn’t seem like a priority for them.”

The article expands on how “members of cultural clubs believe this [lack of a diverse audience] rises less out of cultural hostility than out of complacency and, in some cases, apathy for cultural diversity.”

If we claim diversity matters, then how much it is embraced also matters. The attendance rate for cultural events is only a surface reflection, yet is extremely revealing.

Not much has changed in the social scene of these events over the past two years.

Who is asking how the students of color feel on this campus? Do we ever actively engage our diverse population to gauge how they feel? How sincerely do we care?

From our month of existence under the name Asiatic Gaze, we have been approached by many caring members of our community.

Their support gives us hope, but it’s not our intention to feel secure in loving words of those who already know what’s going on.

It is more essential for us to create space for dialogue with those who do not see why they should think about diversity at all.

We want to engage those who are apathetic or even hostile toward us, and what we fight for. It is rather ambitious and might even be a wild-goose chase.

Yet, on another dimension, we feel that our voice might somehow let others know that they are not alone.

Who knows if our voice will empower future Domers to speak up for themselves? Let’s not have our future generations have to work hard to excavate the marginal voices within our times.

Hien Luu can be reached at

hluu@nd.edu and Edithstein Cho can be reached at echo1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the authors and not necessarily those of The Observer.