Sam Collins: Students can take initiative on diversity

Earlier this year, a study released shed light on the condition of on-campus diversity and how it might be a losing battle.

Research published in the journal “Group Processes & Intergroup Relations” by sociology professor Christian Crandall showed that a university doesn’t necessarily foster diverse friendships when it increases diversity.

At a time when concerns about diversity and inclusion heavily resonate within the University, this could be misconstrued to mean that administration should abandon its diversity efforts, as it won’t offer the student body truly varied interactions.

But the truth is that one solution for the student body to mitigate this fate has been in front of us all along.

The student body needs to change its view of the Multicultural Student Services Center from one of skepticism to one of support. If all students work to form a solid relationship with the MSSC, then students will have the opportunity to be exposed to people from a variety of groups and backgrounds and from there, foster friendships.

At the end of the day, the onus is on students, and not the University, to foster diverse friendships.

There are members of the student body who will not readily accept the Multicultural Student Services Center for what it aims to be. For years, the MSSC has been stigmatized as exclusive and has been isolated from the greater community as a result.

The University has attempted to resolve this stigma by incorporating more groups into the Multicultural Student Services Center, including the LGBT community, as well as female and interfaith communities. And it’s not just for minority groups. The center encourages “majority students” to get involved as well. Still, that is not enough to de-stigmatize the MSSC as “a place only for students of color.”

But it will take more than institutional action to reverse “majority student” apathy for multiculturalism. First, larger student organizations – many with members unfamiliar with the Multicultural Student Services Center – must start or augment existing relationships with multicultural organizations. As student organizations are now seeking to put on bigger, more exhaustive events, they’ll need backing from a range of groups. Clubs should not hesitate to form partnerships or co-host events with multicultural student organizations; they might find betterment from the interaction rather than simply another group’s attendance.

The Multicultural Student Services Center has always been the cradle of multiculturalism at GW for the students who frequent its rooms and hallways. It is the model of what happens when students from different cultural backgrounds form common understandings and lifelong friendships in the course of collaboration.

But if the student body wants to combat the fate of diversity increasing and students still interacting solely with others similar to them, then the whole student body should interact more with the Multicultural Student Services Center. Just because it started out as a place for multicultural students to find friendships with people similar to them, does not mean that image needs to persist.

Student organization partnerships will surely help expose students from varying groups to one another, but even at the individual level, majority students can do more to involve themselves with minority students, too.

The Multicultural Student Services Center has opened its doors to the greater community, and now that community must do the same.

Sam Collins is a master’s student in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration.

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