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Diversity on Mills Campus: Idealistic or Realistic?

Diversity is about acknowledging the differences that comprise the human species, not about reducing that species down to irrefutable statistics. Somehow in our political correctness to properly define and classify our differences we, as a country, have confused diversity with demographics. Mills is no exception.

In fall of 2004, during a prospective student panel discussion, it was announced that the diversity of students on campus was at an all time high of 37 percent. While there is no question that on the surface the women of color representing the Mills community, at the student level, are a diverse group, these statistics do not mirror that of the women of color representing the faculty.

In addition, according to the Diversity at Mills webpage, Mills’ commitment to multiculturalism (a politically correct term for racial diversity) includes recruiting, retaining, and supporting members of underrepresented groups among an inclusive community of students, faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees. Unfortunately, these words are not consistent with the reality that represents the women of color at the faculty level.

It is true that this underrepresented group are recruited and even hired. However, there is some question as to how these individuals are retained—if at all. From all appearances retention seems to be more representative of a revolving door than that of stability and longevity. For example, the Director of Student Diversity position has been filled and refilled four times in the past five years, all with staff of color. It has been said that, nationwide, this particular position on any college campus is high-turnover, but four times in five years?

Spouting statistics to future applicants of color looks good—on paper. However, once those students, faculty, staff, administrators and trustees have joined the ranks the reality of diversity is much different from the idealistic appearance they were presented with before signing on the dotted line.

Now, with Margo Ogazawa-Rey leaving at the end of this semester it begs the question: what is actually being done to retain faculty and staff of color? Students come to depend on these professors and staff members who are here under temporary or tenuous contracts. Rather than having a long-term presence, we end up with a revolving door for professors and staff of color.

An institutionalized approach to diversity may manufacture good statistics and give the appearance of diversity but does very little to support a system where individuals truly understand that they need each other. That understanding starts in the classroom where students of color feel they have a voice and that they matter. That understanding continues within the faculty where the curriculum is structured in a way that is representative of everyone, from the faculty that is responsible for teaching the curriculum down to the students that are expected to embrace and understand it.

It is clear that the goal of our administration is to increase diversity on campus, but that work has to be done at more than a surface level. Mills has come a long way since its inception as the Young Ladies Seminary in 1852 but for as far as we have come…we have a long, long way to go. In essence, it’s time for the administration to put our money where their mouth is.