Diversity (page 2)
and in the classroom, her young professors, all white and mostly male, "simply did not understand how to support me," she said. She sums up her experience at Cornell with one word: lonely.
"The numbers are very, very significant both to the white students, as well as the students of color. It makes for such a rich and varied experience for everyone involved. It really should stimulate learning," she said of the incoming class' diversity.
Dungy went on to earn a master's degree and a Ph.D., working in administration at six colleges and universities before retiring in 2005 as an assistant dean in the University of Iowa College of Medicine. At each academic stop, she saw the difference a nurturing environment and an openness to other ways of thinking can make for students of color. Getting a diverse group of students to Cornell is one thing, noted Dungy, a former Cornell trustee. How well Cornell helps these students feel comfortable and accepted in their new home is another.
Getting the students involved and empowered in campus life is vital for retention.
Retention at Cornell is 89.8 percent for students of color vs. 90.7 percent for the overall student population, according to Heidi Levine, dean of students. Cornell's Office of Intercultural Life (ICL) in Stoner House is key to keeping that rate solid.
Junior Laura Sanchez came from Tucson, Ariz., for a campus visit and was excited by what she saw. "This is where I belong," she remembers thinking. But before long she was homesick. In Tucson, Latinos were the majority, she said, and "I never fully noticed I was different." At Cornell she was a minority and felt "different from everyone else." She made plans to transfer.
But she was encouraged to explore ICL and became involved in the Organization for Latino Awareness. Sanchez started to feel at home. Encouraged to do something productive with her cultural background and her experiences, Sanchez has actively educated the campus about her Latino background, and is hoping to add a multicultural social club to campus.
"I feel like now I am a somebody," she said.
Acting as home away from home for all Cornell students, ICL especially offers to help students address cultural concerns and is a hub for programming and advocacy. ICL serves an eclectic group under the umbrella of diversity: African-Americans and Hispanic/Latinos, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Asian/Pacific Islanders and multiracial students. In addition, diversity at Cornell is also cultivated, although not tracked, in terms of socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, religion, gender, political views, etc. In short, "All marginalized groups, or historically underrepresented groups," explained Morris.
Morris' job duties are equally varied, all with the goal of "building a campus that accepts, appreciates, and values all." From ICL comes special programming of all types, and conversations about hot button ultural issues. He helps students find resources they need to support and affirm their identities, such as places of worship, barbers and hair stylists, ethnic grocery stores and restaurants, conferences and workshops, scholarships, grants, and internships. He also investigates and translates cultural misunderstandings.
Not long ago a panicked international student came to Morris for help. Working as a food service worker, the student had been chided for not wearing a hair net and warned she could be "sent home." To the student, here on a visa, that meant being booted from the United States. Morris stepped in, to explain and educate, on both sides.
Morris works closely with the Council on Multiculturalism, which hopes to launch an in-depth study this year of campus climate to ferret out incidents of sexism, racism, and homophobia—malicious acts that are sometimes reported, but sometimes not. To do so will require some change for a long-established campus group. The council was created in the late 1990s specifically to promote diversity programming on campus. It has no official status with the college and so has limited ability to examine diversity-related issues and make official recommendations for action.
With Cornell's demographics expanding, the council hopes this school year to graduate to a fully chartered status with the new name Diversity Committee. As proposed, this change would give the committee broad representation from the campus population and create a clear and unified statement about diversity, with an explanation of how it fits into the core values of Cornell.
With this charter, the Diversity Committee would have more official power to assess programs, to investigate incidents of discrimination, and to study and make recommendations for recruiting a more diverse faculty and staff. Approved by President Jonathan Brand, the proposal goes to the faculty for approval this fall.
Meanwhile, ICL is a resource for all Cornell students—black, white, brown, freckled, or foreign born. Senior Annie Schneider (representing the freckled population)