College students might feel honored to attend a campus that boasts about its diversity, but they have a responsibility to unify it.
There’s a major distinction between diversity and inclusion. It’s more tangible for colleges to implement diversity than it is inclusivity because they have control over who they accept into their school. On the other hand, inclusivity requires additional effort — students and faculty have to actively participate in order for a campus to feel welcoming for all individuals.
USC has integrated valuable programs within its Office of Diversity to promote inclusion, putting the responsibility on students to take advantage of these opportunities so diversity can translate to inclusion.
Establishing inclusion on campus would not only lead to students becoming more educated about the world but, statistically, they would also be able to perform at their highest capacity. This isn’t some abstract concept; it’s been proven in numerous recent studies.
UCLA’s Office of Equity conducted research on its student body, led by psychologist Margaret Shih, and found if you primed the school's population as "Asian-American," it performed well in a math test but worse in a verbal test. Priming the student body as "women" led to poor test scores in math and improved scores on the verbal test. If there was an increase in positive interactions between these two demographics, it could lead to higher scores for both tests because each group could learn from one another.
So then what’s the best way to increase positive interactions between people that don’t share a common background? Participate in an open conversation. The basis of most of the programs offered by the Office of Diversity is communication. If students take advantage of this, they will be able to better understand what groups of people feel alienated on campus and what they can do to improve it.
According to Inside Higher Ed, "[t]alking about race as actions that people do helps establish common ground, foster a shared vocabulary and provide the opportunity to improve racial literacy.” Oftentimes, students focus on joining clubs that are specific to their major of study and forget that USC offers programs beyond that. Increasing the number of participants in diversity and inclusion programs would articulate a better understanding of what makes students feel welcomed.
Taking part in these community advancements formulates benefits not just on campus. It serves as preparation for students to experience cultural diversity before entering the workforce. Individuals who have experience promoting inclusion will be more likely to expand their critical thinking skills and successfully interact with their colleagues in the future.
Students are responsible for the environment they build on campus. Participating in a conversation is the first step in instilling equality. Communication improves understanding and creates a safe space for individuals to be vulnerable. Be the reason someone feels seen and heard.