“I have gay friends.”
“I have black/Hispanic/Asian friends.”
“That’s so gay.”
These are phrases most of us probably hear all the time, either off-hand in conversation or in defense of comments that people make about the LGBT community or different racial communities.
Although people might use these phrases unknowingly, the truth is they have the potential to single out members of our diverse MSU community.
Diversity is defined as the condition of having or being composed of differing elements and the inclusion of different types of people in a group or organization. But diversity is not something that can be expressed and described with words. It is something we should all be eager and grateful to have the privilege to experience.
ASMSU is currently discussing the idea of a diversity requirement for all MSU students. This is a process that is just in the very first stages, and neither a bill nor a resolution has been written yet. No decision has been made on whether or not the requirement should be a course or a workshop.
There are several ideas that have been discussed, including a one-credit class that would meet a diversity requirement, integration into existing IAH courses, a workshop similar to the SARV Program or a program during the freshmen Academic Orientation Program. The main point to take away from all of this is that nothing has been decided yet, and these things take time to implement.
None of us come to MSU solely for a degree, and even if we think we’re doing that, we leave with far more than simply a degree in our hand. We leave with the experiences from our time here at MSU and we are changed to various degrees by these experiences.
College is a time of education, but there is more to education than what we learn in the classroom. Students are wasting their time and their money here at MSU if they walk away after four years here with only a degree. We need to step outside of our comfort zones during our time at MSU.
Go to a meeting for a group you know nothing about, attend a program that you think sounds interesting, strike up a conversation with someone in your hall that you’ve never spoken with. Get involved with one of the events of Project 60/50, a year-long conversation on civil and human rights. You will be amazed at what you will learn if you just take the chance to experience all that MSU has to offer.
Even though MSU has a very diverse student body and a multitude of resources for multicultural education and programming, we still find ourselves having problems with racism and homophobia on campus. Whether it’s bias incidents like the ones that led to the protests and list of demands from BSA and the other CORES+COPS groups a few years ago, derogatory statements found on white boards in the residence halls or the almost casual use of racist and homophobic slurs and comments in day-to-day conversations of students, we have a problem on campus.
Racism and homophobia do not have to escalate to the level of hate crimes to be considered a problem, and we shouldn’t falsely believe that these incidents don’t have their impact on students and the overall campus culture. Students have the right to always feel safe on campus.
All students come to MSU with a set of beliefs, morals, values and opinions that have been formed throughout their lives, but these are not rigid, concrete, unchanging things.
We are all capable of reevaluating and changing the way we treat others. It could be as simple as having a conversation where you begin to break down a hurtful and harmful stereotype that you had about a group of people, a religion, etc. Unfortunately, not all students might realize these conversations are necessary. This is what the diversity requirement aims to accomplish.
ASMSU’s overall idea and goal for the diversity requirement is to encourage all students to be open to having a discussion about diversity. The goal is not to teach and force students to accept any “agenda.” The idea for the workshop or class would be an open discussion where students could talk about their backgrounds, their identities, and how both have impacted their idea of diversity. The goal is to get everyone thinking about how they can be more respectful and conscious of how their actions and words can have an impact on others and how comfortable they feel on campus.
As the voice for LGBT students on ASMSU, I have a responsibility to try to make the campus climate better for all the students that I represent.
I challenge everyone that reads this article to think about how they try to experience the diversity of this campus, and to also think about if there is an opinion or stereotype they hold as true that might be harmful and hurtful to others.
Finally, if there’s any more proof that this requirement is needed at MSU, look no further than the comments on the original blog post about the diversity requirement. We have a problem on this campus and the solution is not to ignore it and do nothing.
Colin Wiebrecht is the Chairperson and ASMSU representative of the Alliance of Queer and Ally Students. He also is a comparative cultures and politics and social relations and policy sophomore. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.