Fuzzy Numbers

Diversity doesn’t mean much unless it includes interaction among various groups.

The debate over whether Temple is as diverse as it claims to be is on once again in this week’s issue of The Temple News.

Once named the most diverse university in the nation by The Princeton Review, the self-proclaimed “Diversity University” is now lower on the list, though many Temple community members insist the numbers don’t lie.

Temple’s student body is 55 percent female, 57 percent white, 17 percent African American, 10 percent Asian, 3 percent Latin American and 3 percent international students, according to the latest student profile.

Though the numbers are indisputable, they are also superficial.

According to the U.S. Census, the estimated population of Philadelphia in 2006 was 45 percent white, 43 percent African American, 4.5 percent Asian and 8.5 percent Latino. But like Temple, a quick look around Philadelphia is evidence enough that numbers can be meaningless if there is no interaction among the different racial and ethnic groups.

Temple offers its students a glimpse of cultural reality by hosting several groups like the Muslim Student Association, Arab Student Association, Temple Students for Israel, Students for Justice in Palestine, Dholidaz Indian Dance Club and Common Ground. These clubs, along with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, work to foster supportive environments for their respective cultures. But their existence may not fully facilitate communication among them.

Diversity is not about numbers, it’s about interaction – creating relationships built on tolerance, respect and understanding. In that respect, Temple – and Philadelphia – needs a little help.

Groups like Common Ground and the Muslim Student Association are positive things, but they need to work together more rather than serving as self-sustaining organizations. The leaders of these groups can look to Philadelphia as an example. A city that is almost equal in its number of white and African-American residents still has undeniable racial tension, which often leads to bigger problems like redlining, white flight and crime.

When organizations devote themselves to being just symbols of pride rather than sources of information, the basic principle of respect is not there. While it’s important for individuals and associations to be sources of pride cultural identification for their respective communities, self-pride does not earn respect from other organizations. In order for everyone to be on the same page, they first have to have the opportunity to be informed about one another.

Diversity is lost without communication.

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