Diversity demographics can be quantitatively defined. Elon University has made significant strides in becoming more diverse, with the percentage of students of color increasing from only 8 percent in 1999 to 20 percent in the Class of 2020.
Inclusion, on the other hand, is a feeling and sense of belonging that cannot be compiled into a statistic. It is not easy to attain, nor does it mean the same to every person — and with a wide range of definitions comes varied perspectives.
Will McAvoy, a character on the HBO show, “The Newsroom,” made a powerful statement that, “the first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one.”
When surveying students on campus, there was consistent acknowledgement that Elon is taking initiatives to educate its students. Sophomore Nicole Harrison said she consistently receives notifications of various opportunities that “both inform and invite the student body to gain an appreciation for more perspectives and become more involved, accepting people as a whole.”
Yet the issue of inclusivity still exists. According to the 2015 Social Climate Student Survey Executive Summary, LGBTQIA and ALANAM students reported that Elon was less welcoming and less belonging compared to their peers.
It seems that the lack of recognition of this problem comes from the students. Those who feel included are not forced to see the issue, while for others, it may be all they see.
If the goal is to change the campus culture, not just its demographics, then support from administration and personally-affected students is not enough.
Sophomore Bree Statesman added that, though students have been educated on “what inclusiveness looks like,” it is up to the student body as a whole to take initiative. All members of campus contribute to the university’s environment and culture, thus all members of campus must unite to accomplish change. It is imperative for students that feel included to not make it about themselves, but rather recognize what their peers are feeling and what their part is in changing Elon’s social climate.
A student-run campaign called #SeeMeElon may be exactly what Elon needs to propel this mission forward. It will launch throughout campus and on Humans of Elon University’s Facebook page next week to spark more discussion and allow Elon students to share their stories of inclusivity — whether they are positive or negative. This authentic, unscripted content will display the truths of peers and provoke individuals to analyze the wide range of experiences others have had.
The campaign could have the potential to inspire people enough to join in the movement toward increased inclusiveness. Admittedly, that’s a large leap to make. At the very least, it could move Elon a step in the right direction — one that exposes students to the reality of the diverse voices and experiences had by their peers.
See me, Elon, as a woman who is fortunate enough to have found organizations and formed relationships that have pushed me toward the path of belongingness, but allows the beauty, brains and confidence of my peers to inhabit my own.
I urge you to join the campaign, whether it’s by sharing your story or by opening your mind. I hope you will engage in conversations and try and see those who make their voices heard.