No, CWU isn’t the most diverse college in Washington

Addie Adkins, Columnist

CWU has claimed they have been named the top university for diversity in Washington since 2014. This claim has morphed into “most diverse university in Washington” and that makes me cringe every time I see or hear it.

I am in no way saying that CWU isn’t diverse. I am saying it is not the most diverse university in Washington.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, CWU’s student body is 51% white, 16% Hispanic, 13% unknown, 8% two or more races, 4% Black, 4% Asian, 3% non-resident alien, 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 1% American Indian/Alaska Native.

South Seattle College’s student body on the other hand is 29% white, 15% Asian, 12% Black, 12% Hispanic, 12% two or more races, 12% non-resident alien, 8% unknown and 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander according to the same site. Now that’s what I would call a diverse student body.

As a region, eastern Washington isn’t very diverse in the first place. As a half Mexican female, I can tell you growing up in eastern Washington had its difficulties. One of the biggest difficulties happened to be all the hate and discrimination I received.

Let’s just think about that for a minute, shall we? A child, who has no control over her skin tone, would get racial slurs and stereotypical insults thrown her way on a daily basis. It was damaging to be honest.

I didn’t understand. I had the privilege of growing up in a white household. I had the privilege of attending a diverse public elementary school in Seattle. My extended family lived in eastern Washington, and when we came home, I had no reason to believe things would change.

When I moved back and started attending public school, it became very clear to me that inclusivity was a lie, and I belonged nowhere. I didn’t speak Spanish or know anything about Mexican culture, so I didn’t fully fit in with the people who shared my heritage. I didn’t have white skin, so I didn’t fully fit in with the people who looked like the rest of my family. It was a strange middle ground to be in, and I feel the effects even to this day.

Due to that history, I take diversity and inclusivity very seriously. To me, they mean all types of people from all walks of life coexisting peacefully; no racial slurs, no stereotypical insults, no assumptions made on the life people lead or decisions they make based on factors out of their control. So when I hear “most diverse university in Washington state,” I want to see that. I want to believe it.

I just can’t believe that CWU is the top Washington university for diversity. Now, I’m not saying the claim isn’t valid. CWU has been given the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award since 2014.

The HEED award “recognizes colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion,” according to INSIGHT Into Diversity’s website. The website states that institutions can show this commitment with initiatives and programs for students, including outreach and student recruitment and retention programs. An institution is also judged on hiring practices.

The HEED award is the only national award that honors colleges and universities for their commitment to increasing diversity and inclusivity to their campuses.

Four other universities and colleges in Washington have received this award. Eastern Washington University received this award in 2019 and 2018. Washington State University – Vancouver also received this award in 2019. Whitworth University, a private university located in Spokane, received this award in 2018. Highline College received this award four times in a row between 2013 and 2016. 

There is no information about the colleges and universities that have submitted the application, which happens to be 22 pages long and contains 51 questions. Only INSIGHT Into Diversity knows which institutions submitted applications. It’s very possible that there are several universities and colleges that don’t bother applying. Given the length of the application, I wouldn’t either. If they had, I doubt that CWU would have made the cut.

I’ve come to the conclusion that CWU might win the honor of most diverse university in Eastern Washington, but it is definitely not the most diverse in all of Washington state.