Discussing diversity issues currently being addressed by higher education, a group of panelists agreed that creative measures and avenues must be developed and followed in order to make equal opportunity a reality in higher education.
Speaking Jan. 20 at the Museum of Art, Gary Hanson of Arizona State University, a lead policy writer in the wake of the Hopwood decision at the University of Texas, emphasized some of the lessons learned from that decision. We have to make diversity the goal, he said. We have to let educational values drive educational policies.
From calling for greater involvement by the academic community and political action at the state level to addressing the large gap in student preparation in K12, Hanson said its not enough to recruit and to furnish housing and mentoring. Higher education needs to be more active in retaining its students.
Noting the history of diversity in both the workplace and education, Ralph Bonner of Michigan State University recalled the days of non-discrimination, equal opportunity, affirmative action and diversity. We need a new concept for the 21st century, he told the audience. Affirmative action is exclusionary in its philosophical approach. It excludes white males. Diversity is an inclusive concept putting everyone and their differences into the equation.
From a business perspective, consultant Dee Wood pointed out that as the world is continuing to change, it is easier to move the machinery of business if that business includes everybody. Wood formerly was global diversity manager at General Electric Appliances.
Among the alternate routes to diversity in higher education, Hanson suggested opening new pathways of opportunity for those who never considered college before. We need to make access to higher education available to a wider variety of people, he said. But it is a slow process to change campus culture. It requires leadership from the top. Perhaps administrators and faculty should be helping with move-in.