The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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The importance of keeping the proper perspective

By Jim Bergstedt

It seems there has been a lot of emphasis placed on the “d” word lately-diversity. This is, in part, a good thing. I do not object to the notion of a diverse population or a diverse student body. The diversity we enjoy at the U should be celebrated and, in appropriate ways, encouraged.

But we must understand and recognize the difference between diversity based on race and gender and diversity of thought and experience-for the latter seems to be the intended consequence of the former, although the two are not always related.

If the goal of a diverse student body is to foster a kaleidoscope of ideas and backgrounds, then shouldn’t political leaning, religious affiliation, away-from home experience and other traditionally overlooked factors especially play a major role in defining diversity?

The U’s School of Medicine has been criticized once again for the high acceptance rate of minority and female students. An audit was performed at the request of the Utah State Legislature. It revealed that in 2003, 48 percent of minority applicants and 60 percent of female applicants were admitted compared with only 26 percent of male applicants. The audit report said, “It appears that for some committee members, diversity is essentially a matter of gender and race.”

But what the School of Medicine is trying to achieve is really a “mix of students with varying backgrounds and experiences,” James Behunin of the Office of Legislative Auditor said.

Now, that sounds like a fitting definition of diversity. Medical students with a wealth of diverse experiences and unique backgrounds are more likely to relate better with patients from many walks of life than those without such a diverse background. But the School of Medicine must realize that skin color and gender are not necessarily related to varying backgrounds and experiences.

Who’s to say that a white man from the Bible Belt in the South offers any less of a unique personal history and sundry experiences than a black woman from Salt Lake City? And yet, her chances of admission tower over his. I wonder which of the two is more diverse.

Franklin Thomas said, “One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.”

In spite of many universities’ efforts to diversify the campus setting, the end result isn’t too convincing-it can’t be when the faculty exhibits little or no diversity of thought. Fred Lampropoulos, chairman and CEO of Merit Medical Systems, recently made an interesting observation during a segment on KSL Radio. He noted that America is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, as evidenced by the 2000 Presidential election and the current makeup of Congress. “But on the faculty of college campuses, that’s not the case at all,” he said.

A 2002 study revealed that 89 percent of all professors at the University of New Mexico were registered Democrats and four percent were members of the Green Party. In the same year, 94 percent of the liberal arts faculty at the University of Colorado were Democrats and a meager four percent were Republicans. Only one Republican professor could be found at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Surely the numbers are not as staggeringly disproportionate at the U, but based on my observations, they cannot be far off.

I don’t believe there is such a thing as too much diversity, especially here in Utah. But there can be too much of an emphasis placed on diversity, as President Machen is wont to do, primarily because it furthers the cause of segregation and thus prevents us from focusing on the “u” word-unity.

We don’t talk enough about unity because we are too caught up in diversification. Our religious groups on campus seldom join forces to plan campuswide activities and service projects. Our cultural clubs organize worthwhile social gatherings throughout the year with excellent support from their own club members, but less integration from other clubs who may have something to learn from them or perhaps even something to contribute.

Even in our vocabulary we employ the divisive weapons “us” and “them.” These words manifest themselves in conversations about “the greek system” and “the LDSSA” or “ASUU” and “The Chronicle,” but all too often in a negative context and without much of a sense of unity. It is as if we are opposing teams vying for the coveted gold medal awarded to the group who can outdo or outperform the rest of the competition.

Is it a bad thing to shift our mode of thinking every once in a while from what makes us different to what common bond can bring us together? This could allow us to celebrate what makes each of us unique.

Edwin Markham offers some sound advice for the unification process in his classic poem “Outwitted.”

“He drew a circle that shut me out-

“Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

“But Love and I had the wit to win:

“We drew a circle that took him in.”

The truth is, building a unified campus is much more difficult than constructing a diverse one. We are already diverse. There are as many ways of thinking and doing and being as there are students on the campus. The key is to learn how to bring us all together to celebrate what makes us unique.

Each of us has a story to tell. Let’s come together and set aside our differences so that we can begin to learn from them!

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