Speaker: diversity more than race

Diversity became a topic of debate in the past few months at UW-Eau Claire in part because of the UW System’s new holistic admissions policy.

While many critics of the policy focused on the racial aspect of the policy, Joy Mighty, director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Queen’s University and a professor at Queen’s School of Business, said diversity involves more than just the color of a person’s skin.

In a speech Monday titled, “The World is in Your Classroom: Challenges and Opportunities of Diversity at the University,” Mighty illustrated that diversity includes more than visible features.

Sophomore Meghan Sluga said she wasn’t expecting Mighty to talk about the range of topics that make up diversity in a university as well as the world.

“Considering the title, I expected (Mighty) would focus on race as an issue,” Sluga said. “I don’t think Eau Claire is really diverse . it was interesting to hear what she had to say.”

Mighty began with a story involving a part-time student that works full time and directly and indirectly interacts with as many as 24 different countries through the use of clothing, cars, food and television news.

“(You) experience diversity in nature and around the world every day,” Mighty said, adding diversity is a world phenomenon that refers to differences in individual qualities such as background, interests and religion.

She said diversity is more than the color of someone’s skin or their sex, and globalization in the form of immigration has helped remind people of the complex web that creates a diverse community.

“Immigrants are an economic necessity,” Mighty said. “With some European populations declining, they help to continue growth. Many immigrants come from developing countries that are typically called countries of color.”

Mighty said the civil rights movement and affirmative action have also led to increasing acceptance of diversity, adding that diversity is an inevitable reality that many organizations, such as universities, have accepted.

“There’s no denying diversity’s role in educational value in a broader sense,” she said. “The interaction reaps many benefits, broadens horizons and reduces prejudices.”

Still, Mighty said universities can use diversity as an opportunity to enrich the learning experience for everyone, adding the progress over time has been very positive.

“We have a lot of work to do to promote diversity,” she said, “but we’ve come a long way.”