Where’s the “Diverse” in “Most Diverse Campus”? Part two


Courtesy of CWU Flickr

Star Diavolikis, Columnist

A previous opinion piece I wrote expanded on one example regarding the lack of diversity in a simple setting such as a school event, but this piece wasn’t enough. There are still banners outside of Brooks Library describing CWU as being the most accepting campus and official social media accounts still have posts bragging on social media of having a major representation of diversity, yet there is next-to-nothing to support these claims.

I still applaud the entities on campus who do push for diversity and initiatives that support marginalized communities, but there is still no widespread support. The Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI) has been something in the works since before I attended here, and it appears to be pushed off another year as I leave.

Core values that CWU lists on their website include student success. Under student success, the website says, “CWU believes that student success is best achieved by providing supportive learning and living environments that encourage intellectual inquiry, exploration, and application.”

With this, more representation and space for marginalized students would be considered, at least in my eyes, a “supportive learning and living environment.” Every person has a background and a story, so why not provide a space for those who have been discriminated against to be comfortable and support their growth and their character?

This opinion piece isn’t to campaign for that project or any others in the works, but it is an example of something that would benefit marginalized communities on campus, yet is placed on the backburner. It appears as though STEM and sports are taking priority with more flashy buildings. Why is there no huge push for a single building for diverse communities to have a space in?

According to the CWU website’s “Quick Facts” section, in the 2020-2021 school year, 42% of the student population were students of color. Clearly, these communities aren’t a small portion of the student body.

I’m happy there is representation with different events such as the Parade of Nations, PolyFest and African Night. However, if you notice, nearly all of these positively-received campaigns are done by the same groups and departments repeatedly. Personally, I would be endorsing as many of these events as possible if I were an entity on campus. Beyond the idea of promoting diversity simply being an indicator of being a good person, it would shed a positive light on my department.

The lack of support for students of all backgrounds is disappointing. I feel nervous being openly known as “that Indigenous editor from The Observer who pushes for diversity.” Having a reputation of being a strong-headed worker doesn’t always meld well with the stereotype of possibly being a “stubborn Native from the reservation.”

Yet, there is not much in place to help me with this. I have witnessed cases of discrimination, censorship and harassment on campus that were swept under the rug by administration, and I’m nervous for the next day that somebody discriminates against me here once more.

Under the inclusiveness pillar CWU upholds on its website, it says, “CWU believes that all faculty, staff, and students must be and must feel physically, professionally, and emotionally safe in order to fully engage in and benefit from the university experience.” 

The way situations have been handled in the past lead me to believe they say they care, yet won’t act beyond initial damage control.

Discrimination has been presented when a student burned the pride flag hanging in the SURC, yet no official update or conclusion has been presented. Censorship and harassment has been presented throughout multiple stories I have seen The Observer run. With the way things are going on, I truly don’t feel I would get help or be taken seriously with a discriminatory complaint beyond being told, “Just carry pepper spray if somebody approaches you, and some people are just bullies.”

With all of this, I simply hope to see more action from all entities on campus to promote more diversity rather than making colored students the “poster kids” for CWU. It is upsetting that the “burden” of acknowledging all identities on campus falls on the same few departments and organizations I mentioned in my last opinion piece. Why only have a few people spearhead a campaign when, with some effort, many departments can come together to start a big initiative that highlights everyone?

A collaborative effort within departments has been seen previously with events such as Fresh Check Day. Different departments worked together to create a day that provided guidance for students on how to navigate their mental health.

Why can’t there be a day where resources for marginalized students and information on cultures are presented in an approachable way compared to simple posters, one-off events and once-in-a-while Zoom information sessions? Students from various backgrounds deserve a safe space beyond invading the Diversity and Equity Center, as they are simultaneously using that space to work.

Showing rather than telling is the call I’m trying to make. Avoid being performative when choosing to highlight the minorities in the campus community. We can write on a million banners that we are a welcoming and diverse campus, but without actions to prove and back up that claim, those banners become meaningless and a waste of ink.