i Diverse Student Body Benefit Students | COLLEGE WRITING: DEBATE(S) IN HIGHER EDCUATION

Rebecka Olsson

St Norbert College is, according to its mission statement, a college that “provides an educational environment that fosters intellectual, spiritual and personal development”. Our Catholic, Norbertine and liberal arts values states that we “seek truth through an ongoing dialogue among faith, reason and culture” and “pray and reflect communally and individually, welcoming all to participate” and have a ”dialogue with diverse cultures, perspectives and beliefs”. Wolfgang Grassl, a former business professor at SNC wrote an article for the Crisis Magazine about how diversity is not a Catholic value, Grassl claims that: “There is no mention of diversity as a goal of Catholic life in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or in any of the pastoral, moral, or social constitutions and encyclicals before and after Vatican II”. In fact, this claim is contradicting SNC’s mission statements. The problem with Grassl’s statement is that it goes against the statements of the institution that he worked for at that time and Grassl’s claim might make students who are considering to attend SNC to choose a different alternative. 

Diversity is important to learning, and therefore crucial in an educational setting. Aaron Thompson, professor of sociology at Eastern Kentucky University explains how diversity on campuses is beneficial for all students: “Research consistently shows that we learn more from people who are different from us than we do from people who are similar to us”. Interacting with people from different cultures with different backgrounds than oneself allows them to grow as individuals outside of the classroom by introducing them to new ideas and perspectives. He also describes how interaction with a variety of people promotes creative thinking and makes us more self-aware. Thompson describes one of the benefits from being on a diverse college campus like this: “A college campus is like opening the door to the entire world without traveling anywhere else”. Sharing experiences with students who have other interests and backgrounds than oneself is personally enriching and inspiring for both parties. Diversity goes hand in hand with liberal arts education and one important part of the college experience at SNC is to approach and learn about different peoples’ worldview and perspectives of life by interacting with one another. For example, students are able to interact on different levels through sports teams and clubs on campus.

A study done by Sheen S. Levine and David Stark examined the significance of ethnical diversity in social contexts. They put together one homogenous group and one ethnically diverse group and asked them to guess the price of a product. There were no differences in the answers among the groups until they started interacting with each other. The ethnically diverse group’s answers were much more accurate than the homogenous group’s answers once they started discussing with one another, exchanging ideas and experiences. This truly shows the importance of ethnical diversity and how that also matters for learning. Therefore, ethnical diversity should be considered to be very important on a college campus as well as in society as a whole.

St Norbert is a racially diverse college but not so much compared to other liberal arts colleges. It could definitely be more diverse overall and would therefore benefit the students even more. According to statistics from Niche, a website that is providing reviews and statistics from thousands of colleges around the US, 90% of the students at SNC are white, the remaining 10% are african american, hispanic and international. Former and current students can post comments anonymously about the schools diversity on the Niche page and one student commented that: “It would be great to see more diversity on campus to widen the beliefs of others on campus”. Since St Norbert is a liberal arts college it would benefit the student body if we had even more racial diversity than what it is today.

I think that St Norbert could work more with trying to recruit students from less wealthy areas so the diversity statistics increase on our campus. Diversity in schools is not a bad thing, rather something for students to take advantage of and learn from. Center for American Progress published a list of 10 reasons why we need diversity on college campuses, written by Sophia Kerby, where she points out that: “Learning with people from a variety of backgrounds encourages collaboration and fosters innovation, thereby benefitting all students”. One of the reasons why the statistical numbers are relatively low is the fact that Green Bay is a “white” area. I went to a high school in Sweden with a large diversity of people, where the majority of the students were students of color. I learned a lot from being around people with different cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds and I believe that the SNC community would benefit if it became more diverse.

In response to Grassl’s argument about diversity not being a catholic value, an article was posted on the St. Norbert Times by Meghan Monahan saying that diversity is a Catholic value and anyone who thinks the opposite does not know about the values here at St Norbert or any other Catholic liberal arts colleges, and that: “Catholic colleges who welcome LGBT students, students of color, non-Catholic students and basically anyone that is different than a stereotypical white Midwestern Catholic are the real standard bearers of Catholic values”. Diversity is encouraged at SNC and it is an important part of the mission statement. We might not have a diverse student body compared to other colleges, but we do value and respect the diversity that exists here on our campus. The school is working hard to make students become well-rounded citizens that respects and values differences in our community.

 

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