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Aspiring for diversity crucial for campuses

Monday January 10, 2022, By Janani Sampath

College campuses have to be diverse to offer a rich mix of experiences and perspectives for students to learn and thrive sans discrimination and bias.

Similarities bring people together, but differences give them lessons and newer perspectives. And, this mix is of particular importance when ideas and thoughts shape in the institutes of higher education, where students set foot after spending years in a sheltered environment. When they prepare for the world outside, they need a representation of it on the campus – be it gender, race, region, etc.

Backed by studies, it is evident that diversity on campuses results in intellectual engagement, self-motivation, and cultural engagement.

Helps reduce discrimination

The United States, an education hub for international students, has analyzed the impact of diverse campuses. In 2016, the Education Department’s report said that ‘students report less discrimination and bias at institutions where they perceive a stronger institutional commitment to diversity.’

The American Council on Education (ACE) has stated that diversity in institutions’ student bodies, faculties, and staff is important. The ACE has also said that instead of a quota system for the same or making it too lenient to accommodate unqualified applicants, the institutions should make continuous and conscious attempts to be diverse.

Identifying the need to bring in policies

Globally, college campuses have recognized the importance of welcoming a broader mix of cohorts on their campuses, especially in domains like STEM and other fields considered to be the forte of men.

A recently published paper on the SAGE 2YC project (Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education at Two-Year Colleges) in the United States details the use of discussion groups to raise awareness and understanding of the factors leading to homogeneity in the geoscience community and of the strategies.

A key recommendation has been to change policies and practices, incentivizing systemic change.

The project covers the need for having a department committed to diversity, apart from seeking measures by understanding the reasons for the lack of diversity backed by data and through questions about assumptions and norms. It also talks about the need to measure progress and a deep commitment.

Groom and condition them young

It is essential to prepare marginalized groups to step up and aspire for a diverse campus. In India, higher education has been beyond the reach of many girls due to social and economic factors. They do not have appropriate role models. Project Puthri by Avtar Human Capital Trust aims to make school girls from underprivileged sections intentional during the stage they are poised to make decisions about their future. Through inspiration, guidance, and mentorship from role models and career coaches, they aim to pursue higher education and careers in STEM fields which are again male-dominated.

Similarly, MITR looks at making adolescent boys gender champions by sensitizing them to develop and mature into a well-informed youth population of the country. The vision is to create a safe, secure, and equal space for female peers and counterparts. They will develop as a rich brigade of the young male population of the country with age-appropriate information, sensitizing them empathetically to understand the obstacles their women counterparts have to overcome.

Diversity matters 

  • It makes one aware and open
  • Represents the world they are preparing for
  • Important for social development
  • Expanded knowledge base
  • Produces better results

Author Profile

Janani Sampath
Janani Sampath
With close to 15 years of experience in journalism across beats in multiple mediums, Janani Sampath is senior content writer and assistant editor, Diversity Digest.

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