As part of the overall plan to improve diversity among future incoming classes, Elon University aims to triple its number of international students by 2020. From Lakeside Dining Hall’s monthly themed ethnic meals to opportunities to study abroad, Elon offers extensive hands-on-experience to prepare responsible global citizens for life after college.
Recognition and appreciation of cultural differences allows for engaged learning and often builds strong connections between out-of-class experiences and knowledge learned in the classroom. Last year, Insight magazine awarded Elon the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award, an honor reflecting “ongoing university efforts to celebrate and support students, staff, faculty and alumni of all backgrounds and beliefs.”
Elon values almost all qualities among its students and even celebrates them through various clubs and organizations. Education on various topics helps buffer potential clashes between students of different religions, countries, sexual orientation and race, encouraging unity in the university’s community. At Elon, “differences” has a positive connotation.
Though I am grateful for Elon, I can’t help but to offer one suggestion. College professors tend to hold liberal views, with the minority identifying as Republican. I acknowledge that no professors, no matter how qualified, can teach completely objectively, and I do not criticize professors’ beliefs. But I would appreciate the acknowledgement of the other end of the spectrum. I pay a high tuition rate, and in return I would like to receive a well-balanced education.
My participation in “The Global Experience,” a thought-provoking core class, has brought my attention to unseen issues in U.S. society. I thoroughly enjoy focusing on a topic for an extended period of time, and my wonderful professor provides valuable insight and resources. Elon assigned “Why We Can’t Wait,” a book written by Martin Luther King Jr., to kick off the class’ focus on racism in the United States. King addresses his strategy of equality in the last chapter of the book, a series of actions involving many government-funded programs.
Michelle Alexander, the author of the next book assigned to students — “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” — openly critiques Ronald Reagan and supports Barack Obama. We later watched a video on Tim Weiss, an anti-racism activist, who also supports very liberal policy. Lastly, recent cultural event speaker Leonard Pitts Jr. called the Republicans a “know-nothing party” in one of the articles I read as a homework assignment.
Though I did not necessarily agree with every point made by such activists, I appreciate and believe it necessary to see opinions other than my own. I seek similar respect from my peers when they read an opinion different from their own, but it seems some believe one end of the political spectrum represents the entire spectrum. The exposure to variations of the same opinion eliminates the reality of other distinct voices.
The political speakers chosen for the first semester of Elon’s cultural calendar seem to share a disappointing commonality: party affiliation. Melissa Harris-Perry, Leonard Pitts Jr. and Jennifer Granholm all identify as members of the Democratic Party. Out of the three, Harris-Perry (anyone remember her apology for making fun of the Romney family?) and Pitts primarily address race relations in the United States, a central theme of the school year based upon the common reading. Why not change it up a bit?
One resource, “Young America’s Foundation,” offers a variety of resources geared toward young Republican students. Users can simply insert the desired price range and topic, and the site will instantly suggest speakers available to visit campuses. Black political activists such as Deroy Murdock and Joseph C. Phillips offer race perspectives from the right, and their professional experience in broadcast and book/opinions writing, among others areas, make for well-qualified, interesting speaker material. These individuals come at a cost in only the second-lowest range the organization offers ($1,000-3,000).
College and university life is notorious for leaning to the left. It’s no new phenomenon. But to fully embrace diversity, a concept Elon proudly represents, we must allow diversity of thought. I do not wish to trumpet either voice at the end of the spectrum, claiming one idea is better than the other, trying to convince you that I am right and you are wrong. I simply desire to hear all sides of an argument.
Representation of a single idea overshadows the other, and thus does not put into view what is really there. A major theme of the Global Experience, acknowledging issues hidden in plain sight, exemplifies this concept. Differing opinions often encounter conflict, but disagreements lead to change, another abstract concept vital to maintaining a society which guarantees as many rights and freedoms to as many as possible.
All I want is to hear everyone’s voices.