Our Opinion: Diversity spiel doesn’t ‘clique’

The Chart

Freshmen at Missouri Southern are required to take the University Experience course their first semester on campus.

The course is essentially designed to assist students in familiarizing themselves with campus regulations, organizations, procedures and policies and even the campus map.  

Students are required to attend “pods” in this course. In these pods, students from multiple UE courses gather to meet at the same times in Phelps Theatre.

This week, students were required to sit in on a pod in which the topic of discussion was diversity at Southern.

First off, a person in the First Year Experience office was the speaker at the presentation.

She didn’t state that she had any previous background in international studies or diverse culture experiences to  prove her presentation credible, so we assume that she has none.

A director of the international English program or professor in the institute of international studies would have made an incredible difference.

The presenter started off her spiel by sharing a story about walking into  the dining hall on campus and seeing students huddled at tables  in groups based on common demographics.

She then stated that by the end of her presentation, she hoped that next time she walked into the dining hall, she would see people comfortably interacting with people of different backgrounds, races and religions.

After she said this, we would assume that she was going to say something extra-ordinary that would inspire these new students to reach out — break out of their shells, if you will.

Instead, the entire presentation merely skimmed the issue.

The presenter explored typical stereotypes and even asked students to share their own opinions or assumptions of diverse people.

Students said things such as, ‘White people put cheese on everything. Black people are good athletes. Asian people are smart. Men are better drivers than women.’

The hour-long pod was extremely uncomfortable, considering there were people who belonged to each of these categories sitting less than 10 feet away from one another.

Making the situation even worse was the presenter’s lack of sensitivity. Instead of using more appropriate language, the speaker was blunt and without remorse for the words and language being used in the classroom.

Instead of discussing ways to break through these cultural barriers, the presenter went on and on and on — and on — about stereotypes and the reasons why it’s uncomfortable to be in situations with people of different cultures or different beliefs or ethnicities.

We know.

We’ve known since high school that people read into stereotypical assumptions and we’ve known since then that it’s difficult to interact with people who are different than what we are accustomed to.

On a more positive note, the presentation featured a fancy PowerPoint. Kudos for that.

In our opinion, UE classes should focus on giving students the resources to succeed in college.

This presentation needed to give students reasons to want to get out there and gain new experiences.

 If the end goal of the First Year Experience program is to bring students together and increase the acceptance of diversity at MSSU, so far, its failed.