There is no shortage of conversations about diversity and inclusion on Elon University’s campus. Almost every other week it seems as though there is another film screening, forum discussion or speaker here to discuss the complexities surrounding diversity and inclusivity. In general, Elon’s administration and student-run organizations are doing their part to continuously educate the community in these areas. Even here at Elon News Network, stories and editorials about diversity both on and off campus are common on our website and in our newspaper.
But, while these resources are available to students, those who truly need them are not engaging.
Offices such as the Center for Race Ethnicity and Diversity Education and the Gender and LGBTQIA Center (GLC), as well as student-run organizations such as the Black Student Union, SPECTRUM and LASO, serve two main purposes: providing a safe space for marginalized minority groups on campus and educating the greater community on issues facing their groups. These offices and organizations have found great success in the first mission, but the latter — and perhaps most important — has yet to be fulfilled.
No fault lies within these groups though. The real fault lies with the students and community members who do not see diversity as an issue that matters to them. And the truth is, diversity shouldn’t have to directly affect you for you to care.
Most minority students on campus do not need to learn about the importance of diversity education, inclusivity or how to be a better ally, and yet, those who identify within minority groups are typically the ones going to these educational events. Too often, those who are not affected by oppression do not see a need to attend these events. Many even feel tired of talking about race, so they tune out to the conversations altogether.
Just this past weekend, the CREDE and the Center for Leadership co-hosted the seventh annual Intersect Conference, a conference with the goal of teaching students about the importance of diversity in leadership and where the two intersect. This would have been a fun, free and entertaining conference for students to attend as a way to expand their perspectives and engage in challenging discussions, but yet again, the attendees from Elon were primarily those who are already active in similar discussions on campus.
We can’t force people to attend diversity education events, nor can we easily convince them to care. But, we can try to make an effort to shift the conversation from what the university can do to increase diversity and inclusivity initiatives to what students can do to better use the resources around them.
If you are someone who attends events put on by the CREDE or the GLC often, make it a priority to bring a friend or classmate who doesn’t. If you’re tired of talking about race and diversity, those in racial and ethnic minority groups understand — it is far more tiring living through these events than talking about them, but discussion is the only way we are going to create change.