Diversity sorely lacking

by Beacon Staff • November 9, 2005

I suppose I made this association because with innovation comes new ideas, understanding and epiphanies about complex societal structures, which can only be introduced by different types of diversity.,""Bringing innovation to communication and the arts" is Emerson College's catchy motto. To me, this mantra at least hints at a particular ubiquitous cultural diversity, which I had anticipated in the months leading up to college.

I suppose I made this association because with innovation comes new ideas, understanding and epiphanies about complex societal structures, which can only be introduced by different types of diversity.

Knowing little of what to expect my first year away at college, I had a rude awakening within the first few weeks-Emerson lied.

Many of my professors informed me that this institution is "preparing me for the real world" with its vast, expensive technology and innovative teaching. If I were being prepared for what is really going to be prevalent in my future, however, I should be exposed to diversity. There is a sense of loss in innovation when there is a lack of varied culture. Being presented with this type of diversity now would prepare students for an increasingly bilingual and multicultural society. After graduating, future jobs will include journalistic, film and even theater endeavors which could entail traveling overseas and, not surprisingly, being thrown in an environment in which students just may be the minority.

Shocking? For some who have become used to the ethnically homogenous surroundings at Emerson, it will be.

Perhaps this particular type of shock was the explanation for the unsettling situation which occurred on Nov. 1 at a Hurricane Katrina Town Hall Meeting. After identifying himself solely by position and not by his name, the dean of the School of Communications at Emerson College, Stuart Sigman, rudely challenged the idea of race's influence in the sluggish help for blacks in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.

The dean said, "We should not start with the premise that these acts came from a position of racism."

It is worth noting that the dean was not a panelist-he was merely in the audience. When he felt inclined to speak, however, he undemocratically cut in front of several students in order to use the microphone. The dean's intimidating, aggressive response and demeanor saddened and angered me.

When a panelist proposed the hypothetical question, "How many Katrina evacuees do you want in your neighborhood? How many of you would want [these] kids in your schools?," the dean's hasty and argumentative reaction almost resembled that of a person feeling threatened.

In a way, it seemed as though he took the question personally when he harshly answered, "You don't know whether I [.] will or will not allow a group of African American students from New Orleans in my neighborhood."

Reflecting on this experience, I suppose I am not only disappointed in the dean of communications for his behavior, but also in myself and individuals at that meeting who hold leadership roles.

All of us were capable of standing up and bellowing the principles and rules of an open forum and not one person did.

No matter what perceived "power" a person holds in relation to occupation, race or gender, even at something as minor as a community town hall meeting, every single person is equal.

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