College students, staff create shared definition of diversity

Students participate in a forum held at the Truax Campus on Jan. 29 to consider how best to define diversity at Madison College.

Students participate in a forum held at the Truax Campus on Jan. 29 to consider how best to define diversity at Madison College.

Tyler Richter, Staff Writer

Diversity is a broad term that can mean different things to different people. The college set up an informational session recently at Truax to set confines to a definition that will be used in a definition put out by the college.

On Jan. 29, that session took place and students were on hand to give their thoughts on how to define the term diversity.

Among the students on hand was Colin Bowden, Student Senate president and a member of the Center for Student Life. He was one of the students who helped organize the event. He said the definition should include not just equality, but equity as well.

“Equality is when everyone is allowed a seat at the table. Equity is about equal power, when everyone has an equal say in important decisions,” Bowden said. “When you take out equity on a house, you don’t just want to stay in the house, you want to have a say on what goes on in it.”

Although the term equity wasn’t listed in information given to students, it seemed to be a consensus that word had to be a part of the definition. However, race, religion and sexual orientation among others were listed.

Replacing equality with equity made this definition even stronger, but another definition took a slightly different angle. Instead of stating equality directly, it focused on valuing people cultivating an environment where cultural awareness, sensitivity, fairness and integrity prosper.

This definition has importance as well because of its more direct focus on integrity and cultural awareness, which are important for developing a strong, diverse community.

Celebrating individual differences was another part of a possible definition, while others talked about valuing others, appreciating and promoting both individual collective achievement and learning about individual differences and similarities.

Other definitions talked about moving beyond tolerance as well. Bowden said this is an important part of a campus-wide definition.

“Tolerance just sounds wrong,” Bowden said. “It’s like if a gay person were to walk in here and you said ‘Hey, it’s ok, I tolerate gays.’ It’s much more important to have respect for someone than to simply tolerate them.”

For this event, students were divided into groups with approximately three or four people to help initiate the discussion. They were given a sheet with possible definitions and were prompted to choose their top three definitions from the list given.

The three definitions will be refined into a single definition for the whole campus by the college administration and members of the student senate sometime later this month.