Temple University offers a lot more than intellectual enlightenment and heightened career potential. It offers you, the student, a chance to meet people you might never otherwise meet–people different from you. Sure, it sounds obvious, but wherever you are from, ask yourself if you truly benefit from diversity initiatives.
Appreciating diversity is achieved through small but important steps, the first of which you have already made. By attending Temple University, you have, in effect, declared the importance of surrounding yourself with people from varying cultural backgrounds. The remaining steps include learning tolerance and understanding.
The definition of diversity, according to the University of Maryland’s Diversity Dictionary, is “A situation that includes representation of multiple (ideally all) groups within a prescribed environment, such as a university or a workplace. This word most commonly refers to differences between cultural groups, although it is also used to describe differences within cultural groups, e.g. diversity within the Asian-American culture includes Korean Americans and Japanese Americans. An emphasis on accepting and respecting cultural differences by recognizing that no one culture is intrinsically superior to another underlies the current usage of the term.”
Sitting in the computer labs or dining halls around campus, you are likely to see people “sticking with” those who look like them. These people may not be racist, but forming cultural cliques can be alienating and regressive.
A race course is required of all students, but are we any less ignorant of each other’s cultures? When it comes to relations among people of different backgrounds, the barriers can be tough to overcome. How much can one class really teach about tolerance and understanding?
University- and student-run programs help people from all walks of life have a rewarding college experience. Temple uses its Intensive English Language Program to give international students, from Ghana to Ecuador, the opportunity to experience our culture. But is it enough?
Cultural-specific groups, of which there are many on campus, help students maintain an identity, but these clubs should make an active effort to introduce their cultures to the uninitiated. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the unfamiliar must recognize the invitation and take advantage of the knowledge that awaits them.
Diversity is not only about race. For example, acceptance of our gay and lesbian population should be much higher for a “free-thinking” school like Temple.
Open your heart and mind. If this is difficult, start simply. Learn how to pronounce your classmates’ names. Ask about their traditions and beliefs, like holiday celebrations or religion.
Learning shouldn’t stop in the classroom. We are the students of each other’s experiences. America, like our student body, is a mixture of many different cultures. The more initiative you take today, the greater chance at achieving a more harmonious, exciting world tomorrow.