New diversity strategy raises hopes for multicultural campus

by Beacon Staff • February 11, 2009

Emerson College put its new strategic plan for racial and ethnic diversity online on Jan. 28 to inform students about the plan and increase awareness.

The strategy, which was e-mailed to all students and staff by Vice President of Public Affairs David Rosen, is titled "Creating a Culture of Inclusion" and describes how Emerson hopes to increase diversity among its students and faculty.

It's a four-point plan: Create activities and programs that will enhance student diversity; foster a campus environment that is accepting of multiculturalism; retain and enlarge upon a curriculum that prepares students for a diverse world; and establish a program that will increase campus diversity.

Student organizations dedicated to diversity seem optimistic about the new college plan. EBONI Secretary Britt Jones is hoping the new plan will increase awareness of other ethnicities in students and faculty, maybe even in a way that will lead to increase in membership for her organization.

"We're always looking for members, whether there's a plan or not. Hopefully this diversity plan will get the word out there," said the sophomore political communication major.

The plan first entered the beginning stages in July 2007, when a group of students, faculty, and school staff was formed to strengthen ethnic and racial diversity at Emerson College.

Two new annual awards will be created by the college and will be given to individuals or departments. The Diversity Recognition Award consisting of $3,000, will be given to an academic department; the Diversity Recognition Award consisting of $1,500 will be given to an individual.

The plan includes such strategies for achieving its goals as creating diversity training workshops for student leaders of campus organizations. It will also develop a plan for admitting more diverse students so as to reflect the national percentages of ethnicity.

Some students, like senior Sam Newman-Beck, think it's about time for Emerson to make diversity a priority.

"I'm from Boston, and I'm around different races a lot," said the broadcast journalism major. "I think Emerson really lacks that."

The plan could also be an attempt to increase Emerson's ranking among the listings of most diverse schools in the United States. Currently, it ranks with a 0.27 out of 1 in the iU.S. News World Report/i yearly student diversity calculator. By this ranking, a school with 0.0 out of one is attended by a single ethnic group, and a school with one out of one has students equally distributed over all racial groups.

Rutgers University, which currently occupies the top spot on the ranking and has done so for 12 years, earned a score of 0.74 out of one during this past year. Helen Paxton, director of communications at Rutgers, said letting its ranking be known is the best way of attracting diverse students to their campus.

"Promoting Rutgers as we do, as the most diverse campus, it says it all," she said. "[If you visit], you'll see for yourself it's a very diverse place."

Emerson's diversity plan was published during a school year which will also be remembered for an incident in which a student wrote a racial epithet on a bulletin board on the eighth floor of the Piano Row dormitory. This was the twelfth incident of hate speech since 1995, according to a Beacon article. Another incident occurred earlier in the year when Iwasaki Library director Robert Fleming discovered anti-Semitic writing in the library.

However, Morgan said that the plan was not a response to these incidents.

"[Incidents] have happened before," she said. "It happens every year."