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Diversity of what?

President Spencer emailed the student body announcing a series of “open conversations” on diversity, specifically on the role of the Office of Intercultural Education (OIE), and invited the entire Bates community to participate in the conversation. So here’s my take:  the way diversity is conceptualized and acted on at Bates discriminates against numerous legitimate forms of diversity.

You may ask, “What do you mean? Bates has and actively encourages diversity through the OIE, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and through events like this open conversation.” However, Bates has lost the true meaning of diversity, and has focused on it superficially, using it as a means to distinguish itself from other small liberal arts colleges rather than pursuing diversity for its own sake. More concretely, Bates primarily looks at diversity in categorical terms through the lenses of race and gender, and consequently ignores others forms of diversity that contributes to the vitality of the Bates community that we all know well.

Two individuals that I know very well demonstrate the remarkable diversity in the Bates community. The first is a musician, a fantastic guitarist and vocalist. He works in the Bates AV center creating promotional videos for Bates and is an extremely talented alpine skier. The second is a pre-med politics major (I don’t get it either), heavily involved with the Outing Club and EMS, as well as a decent brewer. Also, he is learning Mandarin, and is currently studying abroad in China.

Yet these two individuals do not fit the conventional definition of diversity because both are white, heterosexual males from the East Coast. While Bates may recognize them for their achievements in other ways, their activities aren’t considered as a contribution to the diversity of the college.

As evidence to support the college’s obvious oversight of these other forms of diversity, one only needs to look at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s web page on the Bates website.

First, under the “Diversity in Campus Life” section, there is a page linked to the OIE, whose mission is “providing all of our students from underrepresented backgrounds a ‘space to be apart’” and to provide “opportunities for the entire Bates community to experience ‘time to be together.” What does underrepresented mean, and shouldn’t a college office encouraging diversity promote all forms, not those deemed underrepresented? The term, “intercultural” implies some groups fit their definition while others do not. In addition to the OIE, there is a page listing a variety of faith-related organizations on campus, despite the fact that some of the organizations listed don’t even exist anymore. Why isn’t there is page celebrating the diverse range of non-academic musical talent on campus, and the like?

To be fair, there is a page supposedly for all student activities, but only multicultural organizations are listed on the page. What about the other 90 or so student organizations on campus? I guess their activities do not represent the “diversity” of Bates, despite the fact that we have a wide range of politically activist organizations from the Bates Republicans to the Slow Food Club.

To be clear, this is isn’t an assault on these services or organizations, it just suggests that numerous other forms of diversity seem to be excluded from what the college considers diverse.

Further evidence of this exclusion is exemplified in the college’s policies. Most notably, the affirmative action policy only includes race and gender as identities entitled to special treatment. Why just those forms, because I wonder how many libertarian-leaning faculty are on campus? Probably very few to none. I guess intellectual diversity matters less at Bates than I thought. In sum, the administration doesn’t actually promote diversity, instead just the types of diversity that it deems representative of diversity.

Now what can be taken from this critique to transform it into constructive criticism?

First, the Bates community must make an ongoing effort to reframe diversity to include the various forms diversity takes. This includes an active public relations effort that represents the numerous activities on campus indicative of the college’s diversity. For example, instead of just listing the multicultural organizations on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s web page, list the major accomplishments of all student organizations.

Another important step in reframing diversity is to redraft the mission statement of the OIE and Office of Diversity and Inclusion to expand the definition beyond identity and concentrate activities and intellectual viewpoints, both excluded from the current definition.

Second, promoting diversity around campus requires financial investments. Currently, Bates’ budget for student activities is woefully underfunded at $210 per student, while Bowdoin receives approximately $442 and Hamilton at $440 per student. Also, the OIE and Office of Diversity and Inclusion should receive more discretionary funding to help students and student organizations in promoting their diverse activities around campus.

Bates needs to change the way we think about diversity on campus and include that redefinition in our rhetoric, activities and budgetary priorities to truly create a campus that embraces our multifaceted differences that makes Bates, Bates.

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  • Some Pissed off guy

    Matt (forget the dear),

    Plain content here. I’m pissed off and tried hard to even finish reading your article because it’s both dumb, stupid and ignorant. It’s shameful that you make such comparisons. I’ll give an example and hope you are sensible enough to understand it. A good friend of mine once told some white kid like you that his uncle recently died, and she replied ‘aww, I’m so sorry. My cat just died too.’ You might not know me, but don’t talk to me for 7 days.

    Sincerely,
    Some pissed of multicultural BLACK guy

    • Honest Debate?

      Wow. This is a “shameful” reply post. I’m embarrassed for YOUR narrow minded view of diversity.

      • http://prast.com Charles Prast

        First of all you can’t be “both” of three adjectives. Secondly, “dumb”, “stupid”, and “ignorant” do not have sufficiently distinct definitions to merit being used in conjunction. Third, it’s “pissed off” and not “pissed of”. Fourth, put away the race card.

        I’m hoping for your sake that you were actually “pissed” in the British sense of the word (drunk) when you wrote the above. The alternative to you being impaired, that someone with such a naturally lazy intellect was granted admission to Bates, is not exactly a testament to the success of diversity in admissions.

  • An opposing view

    This post seems to take a very narrow minded and quite frankly and ignorant approach to the term diversity! Quite honestly it falls along the same lines as a student saying “white citizens” are now the minority due to affirmative action. Both the point this person made and the argument you are putting forth has no substance and is honestly shameful. Regardless isn’t the the underlying point of attending a liberal arts college is to interact with those who may have different academic interests and talents than yourself? I believe that’s why many people attend liberal art colleges and not schools or universities who have specific trade or specialty programs within them.

    • Matt F

      I completely agree with the point in the middle of your comment that “isn’t the the underlying point of attending a liberal arts college is to interact with those who may have different academic interests and talents than yourself?”

      In fact, I am advocating for that very position! But, the point of the article is to show that we need to expand that definition of diversity in order to further the mission of a liberal arts college. But wouldn’t you agree that there is a lot of “groupthink” at small liberal colleges like Bates? For example, there is a complete lack of ideological diversity in the faculty, a point I should’ve emphasized more.

  • Just a thought

    Matt,

    Ignoring your diatribe about the White Man’s Burden, I’d like to point out that Bowdoin’s endowment is about $900 million and Hamilton’s is about $630 million, while Bates has an endowment of around $220 million. This means that Bates spends roughly $1 per student per $1 million of enrollment, which is significantly larger than Hamilton, which spends about $0.70, and TWICE as much as Bowdoin, at $0.50. Given your role as Treasurer, I would imagine you to understand the difficulty of allocating a finite amount of money among many worthy causes, and would agree with me that Bates is doing an admirable job funding student activities.

    • Matt F

      I don’t think the endowment is an appropriate metric. The largest part of the Bates’ budget (like most colleges) comes from tuition, not the endowment. We can argue if the endowment is the right metric to compare schools, but i respectfully disagree. Also, last year we had around $660,000 in requests but could only allocate around $315,000, so i would hardly consider that admirable. One reason why we can’t fund a “big” concert (that numerous students demand) is because of a insufficient budget.

      • Just a thought

        Actually, tuition is insufficient to cover all expenses at most colleges, and endowment revenue plays a large role in picking up the slack. Given that Bates, Bowdoin and Hamilton all have similarly-sized student bodies and tuition, the revenue from endowment is key in determining the operating budget. There was a college-wide symposium on costs that discussed this three semesters ago.

        • Matt F

          I was at the symposium, and I am also on BFAC which looks at inter-collegiate trends on these types of issues. One interesting thing about Bates is that because our endowment is lower than many of our peers we are also more tuition-dependent as well. Bowdoin and Hamilton rely more on their endowments for a greater percentage of their budget.

          Nonetheless, a larger student activities budget would be very beneficial to college as a whole, something I hope we can agree upon.

  • Bates Alum

    Does anybody edit these stories? Periods and commas go inside quotation marks.

    • http://prast.com Charles Prast

      In US grammar.

  • http://www.facebookcom Response to “Some Pissed off guy”

    I’m not entirely sure that this example makes sense… it seems that you are implying that because one white person responded insensitively to tragic news, that all or many white people would react the same way. Ignoring the fact that this is the essence of racism (assuming that all people of the same race act the same way), I believe that you are dramatically missing Matt’s point. Matt says at several points that he, in no way, means to diminish the importance of racial discrimination and diversity, but instead thinks that we should broaden our view of what diversity means, and take more aspects of its meaning into consideration. This is not to say that racism does not exist, even at bates, and that it should not be deplored. But calling Matt’s article “dumb, stupid, and ignorant” is, quite frankly, wholly inaccurate and paints Matt in an unfair light. Knowing Matt personally, he does not need me to stand up for him, and I am sure he will respond in his own way, but I simply could not let such a misinformed and nonsensical comment stand.

    • Matt F

      Thank you, I wasn’t sure how to respond that.

  • Kathleen

    By this definition, every single person add “diversity” to the student body. Of course they do. However, in terms of race, culture, and origin, the student body is not very diverse. It IS these broader categories that Bates is deficient in. That’s why Clayton Spencer wants to have the diversity talks.

    Of course every Batesie is unique and contributes to the general diversity a college community looks for. Bates already recruits unique individuals. Your friend may be a rock musician; there are other Batesies that are folk musicians. Orchestra musicians. A capella musicians.

    Bates already has a diverse student body when it comes to personality, talents, opinions, and interests. That’s kind of always been an aim of the admissions office.

    But Bates IS lacking in the broad categories of diversity. Yes, that means in race, in culture, in religion, in origin (this includes the States too! in fact we have offices and deans assigned to broad parts of the States, west coasters, east coasters, southerners), and, yes, in sexuality.

    And yes, in socioeconomic status.

    Why do these broad categories matter if we are all just people with different personalities and talents regardless of these? Well, they DO affect experience, perspective, etc. Some affect food and culture! And stories! These are things the Office of Intercultural Education wants to bring to the Bates community.

    And just because there are a bunch of intercultural clubs (probably because the names stand out, they are not always familiar words!) listed on the Student Activities page does not mean other clubs are not represented. The webpage is generally under-updated anyhow. If you know an official club not listed, email Keith Tannenbaum to have it added, please!

    So yes, the focus now is categorical diversity. I really don’t think it’s a bad focus, and I don’t think it ignores individual diversity at all.
    (On a side note, the bigger issue I see is not the lack of diversity. There is lack of diversity everywhere. We could have a collection of many, many unique figures on shelves in their own cases. If they don’t interact, though… well what are we doing here? It’s of course the harder issue to solve, the lack of interpersonal connection formation barred by difference… but I think it’s a bigger issue. Perhaps not even a college issue, a human issue…)

    • Caroline

      Thank you for posting this Kathleen. I agree with you and would just add that without efforts to increase attendance from people of different races, genders, socioeconomic status and geographic locations it would be difficult to have a student body with much diversity of philosophies, interests and personalities.

      • Matt F

        Caroline and Kathleen: It is more than just about admissions, bringing a more diverse student body numerically is only one part of the solution. I was looking more at the other part, just because diversity on campus is only considered within a narrowed context.

        Note: Kathleen, I am very familiar with the student orgs on campus because my heavy involvement with the budget allocation process. While the main student activities page lists all student orgs, the student activities page on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s page does not, it only provides a link to the main page while listing a few intercultural orgs. That was the issue. lMy understanding of the varied student orgs was the impetus for writing the article in the first place.

        • Kathleen

          The reason I say that this “narrow” (I’d call it broad) context of diversity is okay is because Bates already considers individual diversity of interests, hobbies, activism, and activities. There is no lack of individual diversity — it’s actually the easiest to upkeep and promote, because by nature, every person is an individual. The Admissions Office does this job already.

          The idea of the Office of Diversity’s list on that page is for students from those board categories of diversity — of color, religion, orientation, etc — to quickly find the clubs that can help students build community with other students that share their culture and experience, or invite other students to share in and learn out their cultures and experiences. This means talking about race issues and going to conferences about diversity; this means celebrating holy days or traditions, especially since some students are far from home; this means cultural food; this means safe space for groups who have experienced or are experiencing discrimination, against their group. They are to foster a community environment that will hopefully prevent these students from feeling isolated.

          If they want to find clubs that provide opportunities to practice their hobbies, express individual interests, and so on. It provides a link — it’s not hard to click a link.

          My issue is that I see no issue. I don’t see a lack of concern for individuality at Bates or any oversight on the part of administration.

          On another note, for intellectual (ie political…) diversity, yes, Bates appears liberal-leaning. I don’t necessarily believe it is truly as left-wing as it appears though. Bates Democrats is a very loud club; Bates Republicans, not so much… actually I rarely ever see them around. Bates is very quiet when in comes to politics, I think. Though it may just be that as a science major I don’t really hear a lot of political conversations or debates. Where as are other campuses are having active debates, for instance the life and rights debates (abortion, death penalty, torture, and other such debates — these on other campuses are loud and ongoing), Bates is pretty quiet. It’s a small school, maybe politics here are more homogeneous.

          I always thought it was rare to boast political beliefs at a college interview, though (one of those things students are advised against… though one of my interviews went that way and I was freaking out because it went so far off topic).

          Maybe the politics department should be the one the boast these student clubs on a page.

          • Matt F

            I guess we have different definitions of diversity; I was just suggesting that the college should consider other activities that are promoted should be included in the definition of diversity and recognized as contributing to the diversity of the campus.Currently, this isnt the case due to a more limited definition. That was the oversight I was referring to. We should firmly establish what we mean as diversity on this campus, because it is a very loose term that has numerous interpretations as our conversation indicates.

            As for the intellectual diversity, I completely agree that the rhetoric is very homogenous. However, there are more conservative leaning students than one would think. One reason why there is less dialogue is because some are afraid of expressing their opinion publically, bc it will come off as politically incorrect. I see that as a major problem.

            I am not sure if the politics department is the best way to do this, mostly because the department is not exactly diverse politically and it is important to distinguish political science verses politics. The department is more focused on political science; not entirely sure why it calls itself a politics department, perhaps it is because there are no quantitative courses in the department.

  • Leah

    Although I respect the notion of creating and maintaining an environment that supports a variety of academic and extracurricular interests, this article is somewhat misguided. Diversity relates to bringing students and faculty of different backgrounds to create an environment that is enriched by a variety of perspectives. Bates already has students with “diverse” interests (using diverse in the sense of this article) and it will continue to be that way. Admissions is all about finding well rounded students who push themselves to try new things and be passionate about a variety of topics. I don’t understand why this sort of “diversity” (again, used in the sense of this article) needs to be addressed by Bates as an institution. Clubs and the GEC system all promote the idea of a passionate and engaged student body. Students who are willing to explore different topics and bring unique ideas are important but that isn’t what diversity relates to. The true issue that the Office of Diversity and inclusion addresses is the need to create a safe and welcoming space for all students regardless of gender identity, race, religion, or socio-economic status. It’s duty is to help facilitate the continued goal of developing an environment where students from any background can come to learn, grow, and share experiences. I agree it is important to foster an environment where people can enjoy a wide variety of topics and activities but that has nothing to do with promoting diversity and representing under-represented populations. Bates still has work to be done concerning minorities based on region, socio-economic status, religion, ethnicity, and gender identity.

    • Matt F

      To clarify, I should’ve emphasized political beliefs as well, because that ties to your point on inclusiveness, how do you think students would respond if a student wrote a highly critical article on gay marriage? Probably not too well. Likewise, remember Sen. Santorum’s visit to Bates a few years ago, it was a very hostile environment and certainly not inclusive of his viewpoints. Overall, I agree with your point that inclusiveness should be an objective, but don’t you think that encouraging students from diverse perspectives to interact through mediums not tied to their race, gender etc would better promote an inclusive student body?

      • You still don’t get it (not Leah)

        “don’t you think that encouraging students from diverse perspectives to interact through mediums not tied to their race, gender etc would better promote an inclusive student body?”

        This comment, Matt is exactly the sentiment to which people are responding so sharply. Through reading your posts I have not been sure if you know or understand fully what white/male/heterosexual privilege means. While our actions are not tied directly to our race/gender, our perspectives and our experiences of the world (and our college) are deeply informed by them. The fact that you can argue that these extremely powerfully constructs should be set aside in favor of some “bigger picture” of diversity only shows that you have never been deeply affected by them. Arguing for a redefinition of diversity so broad that it would label virtually every student here as diverse is privilege at its finest.

        Race. Gender. Sexuality. Class. These are the big ticket items the most predominant factors contributing to and creating minority experience. A pre-med, politics majors with two clubs, some beer, and a foreign language isn’t special. That is the average standard for achievement at an elite institution like Bates. Pull any student aside, regardless of their color, their gender, their sexuality, their class, and you will probably find that they too have constructed a rigorous and dynamic academic plan for themselves, augmented by extensive volunteer experiences, leadership commitments, and passionate hobbies. This is the standard of achievement we set for ourselves here, and in that respect, your new definition of diversity is status quo. I don’t think we need any extra budget to honor or showcase something that conventional social norms already aptly support.

        In response to your complaint that there is too little ideological diversity among the faculty and student body, I would like to offer that if you find us too liberal here, then drop out and begin an application to BYU or Vanderbilt. There you will likely find plenty of articles circulating in defense of heteronormativity and conservative political values. This is never something Bates professed we would offer you. Our institution is left leaning, with life partner benefits for faculty and gender neutral housing for students. We have a dance called Lick it for crying out loud, as a result, we attract a certain type of professorial candidate, many of whom do a wonderful job teaching both sides of these issue regardless of political affiliations. If you feel your situations has not been so, that seems to be a problem that should be reconciled through individual teacher evaluations rather than an assault on the institution as a whole.

  • Michelle

    Although it is true that Bates does not allocate as much spending to student activities/student in comparison to our peer schools, it should be kept in mind that our endowment is substantially smaller. Despite our smaller resources, we still manage to remain competitive. Furlow’s point is lost amongst the assault on gender and race – even though he attempts to frame it as otherwise. He seems to have forgotten that the reason why race and gender matter is because these two groups have been marginalized – by white men – throughout history. I never asked to inherit these disadvantages – do you think that I like living my life knowing that I am going to have to work ten times harder than a white man to get to the very top? Truth. These are uncomfortable truths that we don’t like to confront. We are NOT living in a colorblind society – the type of prejudices that exist today are much more subtle and unspoken. In contemporary times, women and minorities STILL make less money, are given less opportunities, and face stigma in the workplace. As a woman of color – in particular, an Asian woman – we are embellished to be exotic playthings in film, literature, and imagery. Take for instance, Miss Saigon. She falls in love with a white soldier, and then kills herself. Take for instance Madame Bovary, Japanese woman, falls in love with a white soldier, and then kills herself. Even contemporary imagery in James Bond: Skyfall. The ‘seductive Asian woman’ falls in love with James Bond, and then ends up being executed as a sport – not to mention, she was a sexual object and easily discardable to the man ‘owned’ her. While the latter part of his article makes a good point: “Also, the OIE and Office of Diversity and Inclusion should receive more discretionary funding to help students and student organizations in promoting their diverse activities around campus,” the way he construes his argument for the majority of the article is predominantly through very white privileged lens. A white man telling me what diversity SHOULD LOOK LIKE is a form of white privilege in its own. Bates does not overlook ‘white, heterosexual men who are great musicians, talented students, and amazing athletes.’ After all, the Office of Admissions considers these accomplishments when they admit you. Further, you receive recognition everywhere because you are the majority. You are on the website, the news items, and whites get the most attendance at their events because this is a predominantly white environment. Furlow mentions that we overlook all these talented people and do not recognize their ‘diversity.’ This is not true. A capella (which are mostly all-white) concerts are packed, football & lacrosse (which are mostly all-white teams) games are full of attendees, and our environmental movements (a very white, middle-upper middle class movement) receive great reception. Do not even try to tell me that Bates does not recognize their accomplishments. We recognize these contributions by allocating these activities with high funding and public support. Race is an important factor because this might be one of your only opportunities to meet and understand someone else who doesn’t look like you, who doesn’t think like you, and who has grown up in a completely different manner from you. Take it as a learning opportunity. The OIE is an important place for many cultural and religious affinity groups to come together, to retain and cultivate identity outside of whiteness. Decades ago, famed author, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background. For instance at Barnard. “Beside the waters of the Hudson” I feel my race. Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, and overswept, but through it all, I remain myself. When covered by the waters, I am; and the ebb but reveals me again.”” Decades later, very little has changed and these sentiments could be something coming out of my mouth in regards to my experience at Bates. Does that make you rethink the importance of racial diversity?

  • Um…

    For the sake of not ranting:

    blahh blahh blahh… white privilege…blahh blahh blahh….. equality…

  • Donny Brasco

    Not only is this article deeply misguided, it’s poorly written and contains grammatical errors. That something like this should be published in The Student is an embarrassment to the college.

  • Seriously?

    Who published this?! As someone said on facebook in response to this: “The fact that this article was written by a biased white male treasurer of the Bates College Student Government and got it published in the main student newspaper/school website, already says a lot about the stage of diversity and inclusion on this campus” Really?! This is also embarrassing to Bates and only going to make minorities (RACIAL minorities…not white saxophone player minorities) feel even more excluded and prospective minorities not want to come to Bates…and yeh it is not even well written/edited.

    • Hieu Nguyen

      Hi there,
      I just want to correct my words in your quote. (you might quote from someone else too but I just don’t want to deepen the wound). I didn’t use “biased white male” in the original comment since I totally respect his points of view. But The author is a treasurer, and this article might cast a lot of doubt on his credibility and judgement.
      Best.

      • Matt F

        Hieu, I can assure you that any member of the budget committee, including the myself, never inserts their biases into the decision-making process. Also, we are all entitled to share our opinions in The Student. To give more verification of our sound judgment there were very few appeals for increased budgets this year, which shows that clubs were satisfied with the reasons they received from the budget committee, even if they were not satisfied with the amount they received. Questioning someone’s integrity shouldn’t be taken lightly. But thank you for clarifying the whole “biased white male” thing.

        • Seriously?

          You’re right and I’m sorry. What you actually said was that the ARTICLE was biased not the author. I must have misread so my apologies, especially to the author. (although unless the author was assigned to write from a certain perspective…aren’t you still saying that the author is biased by saying the article he wrote that displays his opinion is biased?) And I am not saying you don’t respect his point of view – perhaps I simply misread- and I was not ever commenting on the budget committee. I merely wanted to point out that while Matt makes a good point about other forms of diversity not being valued, he is doing it in a way that makes racial minorities feel even more excluded and a bit attacked. (If you didn’t mean to do that Matt, or were assigned to write from a specific perspective that is not your own then I’m sorry for getting angry and you have my sincere apology, but unfortunately that is how this article came off to me).

          • Matt F

            As the author, I can say it was my exclusively my opinion, and I wasnt assigned to write about it. It was not meant to come off as an attack, and I even specifically stated that fact in my article. I am really confused why some view it as an attack.

  • A White Bates Alum

    Are you dumb? Congrats to you and your talented friends. What you have are talents. Brewing beer is a hobby. If you weren’t born into it, it doesn’t contribute to your diversity. Anyone can brew beer. Anyone can ski. But Matt, I beg of you, try to be black. Then maybe you’ll get a clue.

  • Disgruntled Batesie

    Before you make statements such as those above. Please be sure to have a conversation with a decent amount of minority students at Bates. It’s not easy being non-White at Bates and I am personally grateful to any one who is working to make this wonderful school even better. Race and gender is a large issue at Bates that many students pretend does not exist and time is up for that. Although diversity may cover a number of topics, I don’t think that addressing race and gender are a bad place to start.

  • Bates Alum

    The comments on this article are a complete validation of what was written. Most of the people are not responding to the actual content of the article, and are simply using ad hominem attacks. The article is saying, in a nutshell, that Bates should have a more complete view of what diversity means. Instead of just race and gender, should diversity include race, gender, sexual orientation, political thought, social activism, sports, clubs, life experiences, etc? It is asking if all clubs and organizations at Bates be presented equally by the college, instead of just two offices prominently displayed on the Bates main page? The author is arguing that we should have a more complete view of what diversity means, and work to foster more of this diversity on campus.

    I can completely understand why people may not agree with the author, yet instead of having a discussion about what diversity means at Bates, the people commenting on the article are attacking the author, or critiquing his grammar and writing style to avoid addressing the issues he actually raises. Michelle even wrote that “A white man telling me what diversity SHOULD LOOK LIKE is a form of white privilege in its own.” What exactly is she implying with that comment? Is she saying that because someone happens to have ancestors from a certain part of the world, and because that person also happens to have external genitalia, than his opinion about an important subject that affects everybody is invalid? How is that not racist and sexist, implying that someone’s opinion is worth less because of their race and gender? Imagine if a minority student had written this article. Imagine now, if the comments on the article were similar to these comments: that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about because she’s black, that he shouldn’t comment on such things because he’s gay, that her opinion is invalid because she’s a Muslim. There would be outrage (and rightly so!), yet everyone here seems perfectly content to make racial and gendered attacks against the author.

    The response to this article shows that diversity is not tolerated at Bates. By this, I mean diversity of thought and of viewpoint. The author has written an article where he goes against the mainstream thought at Bates, and he is getting attacked for it. People claim that some of the advantages of diversity and inclusion are that you are exposed to differing points of view, and different opinions on things. Here we have an example of how this plays out on campus. A person disagrees with the majority, the person is racially attacked, the person is said to be out of touch, the person is said to be “dumb,” as someone put it, and a whole slew of assumptions are made about the author and his “privilege” and “entitlement”. Meanwhile, there is no real and rational discussion of the actual issues. Brilliant.

    • http://none.com Consider what’s actually being said

      I fully agree with you, “Bates Alum.” “Diversity” is much more than simply color of skin and often, it’s been far too drilled into us that it is just difference of color = diversity. Diversity should be considered on a range of levels– economic, political, gender, sexuality…etc. The thought patterns at Bates are unbelievably homogenous and it saddens me to see the nasty response to someone who has decided to think differently. I too, completely understand why people don’t agree with the author, but instead of snapping back because this is so un-politically correct, let’s look at what Matt is really saying instead of yelling at him for being a white male. That’s not the issue here. Yes, it’s prominent for him to realize his privilege, but let’s explore his message further.

  • Matt is desperate.

    Honestly Matt,

    I am one of maybe 10 black women in my class. If you think “being a muscian” is diversity, and being a person of color isn’t diversity, knowing that we have more kids in acapella groups, musicals and student bands than we do minorities in our entire school than you are sadly mistaken. You’re actually just ignorant.

    Matt what your problem is, honestly speaking, is that you are small minded and so desperate to not be so vanilla,not be so much like everyone else and not be so un-unique that you are looking for ‘diversity’ in all the wrong places. If you want to find diversity and broaden who you are perhaps maybe you should take up ukulele skydiving or something.

    • Matt F

      Where in the article did I say “being a person of color isn’t diversity”? Good luck finding it, because it isn’t there, and in fact I acknowledge that it is diversity. Pants on Fire Claim: 1. Reading comprehension: 0.

      • Matt Really?

        really? your turning this into a game shows how low of a person you really are..

  • Austin Guyette

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Please read the post by Bates Alum on May 3rd 2013 at 11:23am. Mr. Furlow’s article attempts to articulate everything discussed in the Bates Alum comment and your attacks on the author’s character are short-sighted. Diversity is more than the color of your skin or who you romantically pursue. Granted, race gender and sexuality are all part of diversity but there is more to diversity than just these three foci. In order to have a discussion on this complex topic we must let the merits of all sides be heard. There is more than one right way to make a liberal arts college “diverse”.

    • Andrea

      I’m seeing a lot of white people disregarding the comments of POC here. The fact that a significant portion of the unhappy comments are written by POC obviously suggests that their perspectives are not understand/reflected in Matt’s article. If you (anyone reading, not just Austin) really don’t see a problem in this article, try having a conversation with a POC about it, face to face. Or with an LGBT student, or anyone who has a very different perspective than yours. It’s easy to disregard someone’s opinion in a comment section, so how about you try it face to face.

      • Matt F

        Why do assume I dont have any conversations with persons of color of LGBT? But you are right that we need to have more conversations about this, but that includes getting everyone’s opinions, no matter of race, gender, sexuality etc..

  • Kai Payne

    I have taken a long time to formulate what I wanted to say in response to this article because quite frankly, I was mad as hell when I first read it. However, angry as I may have been, I was not surprised at the ideological content. Matt’s comment is the unfortunate result of someone who has lived a privileged and closed life. I will not sit here and blame Matt like other comments for having lived such a life because it wasn’t his choice any more than being black was mine. However, these are the stones with which we were cast and we go on with our lives. I would like to focus more on what diversity means to me because I think that Matt is a little confused. Matt’s main point is that “the way diversity is conceptualized and acted on at Bates discriminates against numerous legitimate forms of diversity” in response to the recent conversation on diversity put together by Clayton Spencer. I have a problem with this. The word legitimate in itself poses a problem because it leads me to believe that the current way in which we discuss diversity in the eyes of Matt are not legitimate. The word “legitimate” holds power in which something is recognized as more real and tangible than something else. This creates a structure in which things are layered and you have the higher “legitimate” criteria and the lower non legitimate one. Who gave you the right to decide Matt? He then goes on to say that Bates has “lost the true meaning of diversity” because of his belief that Bates focuses on “categorical terms through the lens of race and gender” rather than the whole picture…Who can sing, who can play a guitar, who can ski, a member of the EMS…and so on.. The problem with all of those things that Matt goes in detail to mention as a part of diversity, I sit back and just ask myself is this dude for real? Surely, he can’t be so naive and small minded? I look at the list of Matt’s idea of broader diversity and I see hobbies…activities…things that certain people depending on their own personal circumstances wouldn’t even have a chance to do.. I am black…I can sing…I am in an A capella group…I played the violin..I went to boarding school….and the only thing that I think on that lists that makes me diverse is my skin color… That i was born with…out of all the things that I listed, that is what has shaped some of my life experiences. For example, just yesterday.. I went to Wal-Mart with my two friends. They are white, and of course that doesn’t matter to me, but in the eyes of others I was still viewed as different. We all went to the cashier and bought our respective items. My two friends went before me, payed with a debit card and the exchange was over. When It was my turn the first thing the cashier asked me is if the debit card that I was about to use “was mine.” Why would she ask me that and not her friends? I can’t say for sure that it was because of me being black, but let’s look at the facts.. all she could determine from the three of us was the color of our skin.. she doesn’t know I use to play the violin, or that I can sing… She doesn’t know that I went to boarding school….Couple that with the fact that she didn’t ask my two white friends the same thing and you have to wonder? I write this experience to say that what you mention as a broader form of diversity Matt is not… They are things that you learn…things that the admissions office already takes into account when you are applying to school…THIS MEANS THAT YOU ARE BEING RECOGNIZED.. after all your hobbies and interests got you into school. Don’t even get me started on EMS and skiing.. The EMS program in itself is exclusionary because some people like myself can’t even afford to pay the expensive fee that it costs to get certified. In terms of your definition of diversity some people have the opportunity to buy how diverse they are…DO YOU SEE THE STUPIDITY IN THAT? It doesn’t make sense… Matt continues to ask “what does underrepresented mean” and the easiest answer to that is everything you are not.. As a white male… you have never be underrepresented…the fact that you can play a guitar or sing or do just about anything else doesn’t make you diverse, it means you had a life in which these things were offered to you.. As a black male I see how I am underrepresented.. At Bates… I am one of few black people on campus, same at my boarding school….I get comments from people who say well you went to boarding school…not knowing that I was part of a program that took underrepresented youth from inner city New York and gave us a chance by funding our high school education. I get comments from people saying well you aren’t really black, you hang out with white people….I say all this Matt to say that I thank Bates for having a place like the OIE where for just a short while I don’t have to experience what is my everyday reality… and you sit and complain about a friend who can sing…Furthermore, you talk about clubs that don’t get recognition like the Bates Republicans and the Slow Foods Club and your dishonesty there is appalling. As a member of the ORB- Organization Review Board and the student government which we are both in, it is my duty along with my colleagues in ORB to pass certain club constitutions… Slow Foods just recently got passed at the end of second semester.. As in a few weeks ago.. You trying to paint them as a group that gets no attention because of Bates lack of commitment to diversity is false… they just started and have just got their feet off the ground my friend.. The Bates Republicans on the other hand have been around, but list a number of things that they do…is it because of Bates lack of commitment to diversity that they get no attention or is it because they don’t do a lot, at least in comparison to the Bates Democrats…and there budget is bigger… It sickens me that as the treasurer of the Student government who rewrote the constitution to somehow make sure that you are treasurer again for your senior year which already is fishy would then end your article asking for money to promote diversity.. This makes you a hypocrite..OUTfront this year got their budget cut by hundreds of dollars this year? what for? I would like to hear your response because the reason that I heard paints you as a liar..Diversity does include a wider array of things than race and gender, but I can assure you it is not the talents of your white friends.. It includes socio economic status, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation. Not a bunch of hobbies that your friends are fortunate enough to afford..Did you talk to anyone of color before writing this article? I would like to know. This article honestly to me is exactly like the whole Suzy Lee Weiss girl who complained about not getting into certain schools because other students of underrepresented backgrounds “stole her place”… The fact that she could get onto national television and a nationally recognized newspaper already shows her reach.. The fact that your opinion got published when I know for a fact that some people of color who tried to write something in the newspaper about the black experience didn’t get it shows your reach.. Please sit back for a moment and realize that you can’t just try to rewrite the meaning of diversity because you feel excluded.. that is my life on a daily basis and will be so.. You and I attend the same school, but I will make .60 cents to every dollar you make because I am black…that is with me knowing how to sing, swim, play the violin, and going to boarding school…. I thought those make me super diverse?? Get off your high horse..

  • Clarification

    I am not mad that this article’s point is that Bates values racial diversity over other types of diversity eg. economic diversity. I think that that is a very good point and something that should be discussed. However, the tone, biased manner, and insensitivity with which this article was written is extremely offensive and unwelcoming to any non-white male at Bates. I find that the student body role model should be advocating open discussion and inclusion, not exclusion. Which form of diversity is better? Which minority has it worse off? White males with special talents over looked in the admissions, or black students whom students overlook going to their performances? (not saying either of those actually happen) but honestly It doesn’t matter, everything and every member of the community should be considered. Some may need some more immediate attention than others if there is a prominent problem, but that doesn’t make other forms of minorities or diversities less important, and we shouldn’t be arguing over who has it worse. We should stop complaining and try to work together to make it less of an issue for everyone (it will never not be an issue but at least we can try to make it better so that everyone feels included and not disregarded at Bates, no matter what minority they are).

  • Bates Alum

    Where to start?

    You say that “My two friends went before me, paid with a debit card and the exchange was over. When it was my turn the first thing the cashier asked me is if the debit card that I was about to use ‘was mine.’ Why would she ask me that and not her friends?” That is indeed unfortunate, and it is quite possible that the cashier was racist. This person judged you on the color of your skin alone, rather than reserving judgment and forming in opinion of you based upon your intelligence, your accomplishments, or your behavior, among many other possible things. While institutional racism is may be mostly gone in the United States, it is a sad fact that personal prejudices still exist. I’m sure that as a black man, you have experienced more than your fair share of discrimination.
    That fact makes your arguments all the more puzzling to me. A person at Wal-Mart judges you based upon the color of your skin, and you are insulted and say that it is racist (which of course it is). A different person suggests that instead of judging people by their gender or the color of their skin, the college should consider them as a whole person, taking into account their accomplishments, intelligence, activism, hobbies, and interests, and you say that such an approach is “narrow-minded,” and that “Matt’s comment is the unfortunate result of someone who has lived a privileged and closed life.”

    Later you say that “I will make .60 cents to every dollar you make because I am black.” This is simply a ridiculous statement. Yes, black people in the United States make less on average than white people, but what does that mean to you as an individual? Should Matt be able to say that he will only earn 80 cents for every dollar an Asian person makes simply “because he is white?” Black people in the United States are generally less educated than white people, and there is a correlation between education and income. This fact alone can explain some of the disparity in income. Obviously racism plays a role as well, but as someone who is going to get a degree from an elite private school, you are certainly not going to make 60 cents for every dollar a white person makes simply “because you are black.” Honestly, that is a ridiculously defeatist attitude, and you make it seem as though you have no personal control over how much money you make.

    This is just one example of how you seem determined to play the race card at every turn. You call Matt ignorant, yet you say that “As a white male… you have never been underrepresented.” Such a statement is unbelievably ignorant, and quite frankly it is racist. You are making a judgment about a person’s life experiences simply because of stereotypes you have about white people. Do you honestly believe that it is impossible for a white male to ever be underrepresented, because that is completely laughable. This kind of racism continues throughout the article. You say, “Diversity does include a wider array of things than race and gender, but I can assure you it is not the talents of your white friends.” How can you assure him of that? Do you know every single one of his friends? Do you know all of their talents, and all of their different life experiences? And why, I ask, did you feel the need to qualify that statement with the phrase “white friends.” Are you implying that diversity includes that talents of his “non-white friends,” or are you implying that he only has “white friends?”
    You ask, “Did you talk to anyone of color before writing this article? I would like to know.” By saying this, you fail to consider that people of color might possibly share his opinion. For instance, Clarence Thomas, a black Supreme Court justice, has voiced his opposition to affirmative action policies based upon race. Continuing your race-baiting, you say, “I know for a fact that some people of color who tried to write something in the newspaper about the black experience didn’t get it shows your reach.” This again shows your lack of research. For example, quite recently, there was a fine piece in the Bates Magazine about the experiences of one of the first black members of the Marine Corps who had attended Bates. No, it wasn’t in the Bates Student, but it was in a prominent college publication that is honestly probably harder to get a story published in, and is also distributed to alumni all over the country. Furthermore, the abolitionist beginnings of Bates and the contributions of the many black students and professors over the years are readily apparent to all on campus and are a source of pride for the entire Bates community.

    Should there be articles in the Bates Student about the black experience at Bates? I say yes, such articles are absolutely important. However, articles such as Matt’s are important too. So much of the discussion about race and diversity at Bates is stifled because people do not want to have an honest discussion about it. They have to be politically correct and don’t want to be called racist, or they are afraid of getting attacked for their opinions. Obviously there is a lot of disagreement about the subject, as shown by the comments that the article is getting, but I would argue that such disagreement is important. Controversy stimulates discussion, and this is obviously an important issue to many people. That being said, such disagreements have to be kept civil.

    Let me ask you this: Would having a more complete view of what diversity means at Bates create a more diverse environment? I say yes, it absolutely would. How could having a group of people with a wider variety of life experiences, interests, and activities be bad for diversity? So many people seem to think that Matt is advocating a “whitening” of the student body–one person even said that he claimed “being a person of color isn’t diversity,” despite the fact that he never said such a thing. He was using two white people as an example of what could be considered diversity to prove a point–not to advocate that people of color suddenly aren’t diverse. All of the things that he is advocating be included in “diversity” at Bates are by no means unique to a certain ethnic group or gender, and would certainly create a more diverse intellectual and social environment at the college.

    Sorry about any typos!

  • Detmer Kremer

    Many of the things I wanted to say have been said here by many other people in a great, eloquent and comprehensive matter. Especially Kai’s post made me incredibly happy. Matt, I acknowledge that there are many different layers of diversity but it is important to realize what aspects of for example musical diversity mean. I am from a incredible small town in the north of the Netherlands where there was no education available for music, hence I can’t play any instrument. You might have been privileged enough to buy your own instrument, to go to other places and afford a teacher. I never had that option and thus I am not diverse enough for your standard? This is where your argument becomes problematic because I will face discrimination constantly on many different levels besides my musical abilities. I am Frisian, a minority culture that is effectively marginalized by the Dutch government and I do not know if Bates acknowledges this or if there is a place for me. As a gay person I experienced many problems and in some countries I face the death penalty. I can not get legally married in this country if I would decide to stay here. Did you ever experience any of this? Were you barred from an institution because you could not play the violin? Were you stereotyped across popular media because you only play 2 instead of 3 sports? I doubt that. This is why these dialogues are so important because it allows Bates to respond to be people who did experience such things. This is why there is no place for your definition of diversity in these dialogues. I believe that was your critique on the dialogues as you felt you were excluded. Many of us feel that everyday. Matt, when I see you replies I see most of them are to the comments that agree with you or that do not tackle the main issue of your article. I would like to see your response to either Kai’s or my post.

    • Matt F

      Sorry for taking so long to respond.

      To be clear, I dont think you need to play an instrument to be diverse, that was an example, which I think was fairly obvious to anyone who read it carefully.

      I don’t define diversity in terms of oppression/discrimination, because that definition excludes alot of people who do not fit that definition.

      A few questions I have for you Detmer:

      1. Who defines who is diverse and who isnt?

      2. To what extent to have to be oppressed to be considered diverse?

      3. Why should discrimination be the standard?

      4. What is the goal of diversity?

      Finally, I think that we all need to be included in a discussion of diversity, because it affects all of us, marginalized or not. Do you think that all privilaged, white, heterosexual males are the same?? Also, have you ever been marginalized because of your viewpoints or political beliefs; well it has happened to me at bates in the classroom, and by some of the responses to the article. However, it is only so if I speak out, and you wonder why many don’t want to talk about this issue.

      Would love to talk about this further in the fall or by by phone.

      (Fun fact: I am of Frisian origin too, mother side’s surname is Swierenga).

  • Cat

    I think most people agree with the central premise of this article: diversity comes in many forms, beyond that of immutable identity characteristics. Guess what? So does Bates. Our admissions office DOES use a holistic process where extracurricular involvement, passions, and, yes, diversity of thought, are factored in.

    That said, I think the vitriolic responses here come in reaction to the language and values that are embedded throughout this piece. It goes one step further than just calling for a broader definition of diversity (a moot point because it is already seen as such). Rather, it seems to assert that this other type of diversity deserves equal standing with the “categorical” diversity outlined in the OIE policies.

    Why is this a problem? Because when you claim that Bates “discriminates” against these other forms of diversity, you demean and diminish true adversity that people actually do have to overcome because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. Have you ever been denied entry to a club because of the color of your skin? Have you been told you couldn’t do something because you were a woman? Have you had racial epithets thrown your way by complete strangers, or faced stereotype threat when taking standardized testing? These are but a handful of real world examples that don’t even begin to skim the surface of the harms that racism, sexism, etc. inflict upon our society. I’m sorry, but lacking the funding to successfully run a microbrewery is NOT ‘discrimination,’ it’s reasonable budget constraints that any school faces.

    This is compounded by the clear lack of understanding when he asks what “underrepresented” means. Let me break this down for you: although our country has made great strides towards ameliorating racial inequities and other forms of injustice, in today’s world certain groups (for example, some racial and ethnic minorities) are less likely to attend college in the first place than the general population. This occurs EVEN when adjusting for income differences. This is why we have affirmative action. Similarly, women are “underrepresented” in STEM fields. This is one reason why we often value gender as a metric for evaluating someone’s contribution to ‘diversity’.

    I respect the author for sharing his viewpoint, and I agree that it would be nice if we could fund a greater breadth of student activities for students to pursue. However, being queer or being Native American isn’t an “activity” and often bears with it a unique set of challenges. Is this absolutely, universally the case? No. But in general, there are systemic disadvantages that these groups face. I hope further reflection on this issue prompts you to re-evaluate the weight you are putting on these other extracurriculars (which I agree, do contribute much to the vibrancy of life at Bates). However, the mission of the OIE is to support students who face disadvantage, and to bring different groups on campus together. I would posit that if the white, male, heterosexual students you mentioned actually asked to be involved and participate in OIE programming that they would be embraced with open arms. But (for all the reasons I’ve just explained), I don’t envision them knocking on the OIE’s door any time soon.

  • Asaad Miller

    ^This

  • Anonymous

    Wow this is just the biggest case of a misguided and ignorant, white-privilege-receiving, heterosexual male trying to promote your sob story about how you are under-appreciated in a place where you are the most represented and appreciated type of person and are now trying to tell the already scarce minorities that the emphasis on the importance of racial/ethnic diversity is on the same playing field as whether someone can sing a song or kick a ball around. It’s just down right insulting.
    And by the way, you don’t have the right to say that it is not insulting since you are not a part of the group that it targets.

  • Jimmy

    The first example of diversity that comes to your mind is a white kid from the northeast who plays guitar and skis….Those are like the two most stereotypical activities that exist for northeastern white kids. I think that says it all.

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