The center will explore the issues of diversity on a smaller level, using the Temple community as a microcosm.
Temple boasts a reputation as one of the most diverse campuses in the country. And with a student body representing a broad spectrum of races, nationalities, religions and socio-economic backgrounds, it has reason to do so.
Demographics alone, though, do not guarantee interaction among the many groups that make up the Temple population, and a lack of such interaction can fuel visible, self-imposed segregation along such lines. Temple recently announced the formation of its Academic Center on Research in Diversity, or ACCORD, a group that will seek to change this.
Developed by the Faculty Senate Committee on the Status of Faculty of Color and headed by Committee Chair Dr. Roland Williams, the center looks to assess and improve the state of race and class relations at the university.
With the U.S. Census Bureau predicting that non-Caucasians will constitute a majority of the population by 2042, Temple serves as a microcosm to what can be expected in the coming decades.
Realizing that diversity will continue to become more relevant in the coming decades, ACCORD plans not only to research the impacts of such drastic demographic changes but also to examine social barriers that lead to self-imposed segregation.
While there’s generally no apparent hostility between the parties, truly diverse social settings do not necessarily occur as often as Temple’s reputation would suggest.
“Temple will be an excellent place this kind of experiment because we’re already ‘the Diversity University,’” said Williams, an English
professor who teaches courses on racial imagery in American literature and film. “The kind of population that we have is the kind of population [we’ll] face in the future. Avoiding diversity isn’t an option anymore.”
The first ACCORD program offered to students will be an undergraduate forum in October, titled “Our Changing Complexion and the Future We Face.” The goal of the forum is to open a candid dialogue on the current and future state of race relations in America.
Open conversation, Williams said, is the first step in reconciling long-held past prejudices.
“We have our biases against people in the abstract, and the way we come to understand someone is as an individual,” Williams said.
Using the forum as an outlet to establish such relationships, Williams said he anticipates “will help to transcend the tendency to self-segregate.”
But Williams was also quick to emphasize that the center will devote its energies to all forms of diversity, including economic background, the determining factor in de facto segregation. The effects of such segregation, as Williams points out, serve only to solidify class disparities.
“We use color to mask class conflicts,” he said, “and class has a tremendous impact on our relationships.”
Aside from race and class, Williams said the center would be concerned with immigration policy, the future of homosexuals in the armed forces and the disproportionately small number of women in the science fields.
Although no details on other undergraduate programs have been released, “theatrical workshops, student excursions, staff retreats and service to area youths” will likely be incorporated, according the university’s Office of News Communications.
The office also said the university plans to increase scholarship funding for “outstanding and diverse graduate students.” The amount and source of the increase, however, could not be determined.
Through working with students in the forum and its subsequent programs, the long-term goal of the center is to identify effective strategies for teaching students how to deal with the increasingly diverse population that has been brought about by globalization. Such skills will become even more critical in coming decades.
Williams, meanwhile, said he looks forward to the benefits that diversity will bring.
“Look at the Phillies,” he said. “[They are] in the middle of what’s probably their best run ever, and they’re one of the most diverse teams in the league.”
Don Hoegg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.