For each of us, diversity has unique meaning. What does diversity mean to you? Explore some of the many definitions offered by college students and determine which may be most accurate and thoughtful in your estimation. Even if you feel like an outsider at college, you can grow in understanding the importance of diversity on campus and the value of speaking openly and honestly about connecting with diverse cultures.
There are few words in the English language that have more diverse interpretations than diversity. What does diversity mean? Better yet – what does diversity mean to you? And what does it mean to your best friend, your teacher, your parents, your religious leader, or the person standing behind you in a grocery store?
For each of us, diversity has unique meaning. Below are a few of the many definitions offered by college students at a 2010 conference on the topic of diversity. Which of these definitions rings out to you as most accurate and thoughtful? Which definitions could use some embellishment or clarification, in your opinion?
Diversity means different things to different people, and it can be understood differently in different environments. In the context of your college experience, diversity generally refers to people around you who differ by race, culture, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, abilities, opinions, political views, and in other ways. When it comes to diversity on the college campus, we also think about how groups interact with one another, given their differences (even if they’re just perceived differences.) How do diverse populations experience and explore their relationships?
“More and more organizations define diversity really broadly,” says Eric Peterson, who works on diversity issues for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “Really, it’s any way any group of people can differ significantly from another group of people – appearance, sexual orientation, veteran status, your level in the organization. It has moved far beyond the legally protected categories that we’ve always looked at.”
In the following video, students from Juniata College describe what diversity means to them and explain why it’s an important aspect of their college experience.
Surface diversity and deep diversity are categories of personal attributes – or differences in attributes – that people perceive to exist between people or groups of people.
For example: At the beginning of a term, a classmate belonging to a minority ethnic group, whose native language is not English (surface diversity), may be treated differently by fellow classmates in another ethnic group. But as the term gets under way, classmates begin discovering the person’s values and beliefs (deep-level diversity), which they find they are comfortable with. The surface-level attributes of language and perhaps skin color become more “transparent” (less noticeable) as comfort is gained with deep-level attributes.
The following video is a quick summary of the differences between surface-level and deep-level diversity.
Why does diversity matter in college? It matters because when you are exposed to new ideas, viewpoints, customs, and perspectives – which invariably happens when you come in contact with diverse groups of people – you expand your frame of reference for understanding the world. Your thinking becomes more open and global. You become comfortable working and interacting with people of all nationalities. You gain a new knowledge base as you learn from people who are different from yourself. You think “harder” and more creatively. You perceive in new ways, seeing issues and problems from new angles. You can absorb and consider a wider range of options, and your values may be enriched. In short, it contributes to your education.
Consider the following facts about diversity in the United States:
All in all, diversity brings richness to relationships on campus and off campus, and it further prepares college students to thrive and work in a multicultural world. Diversity is fast becoming America’s middle name.
The idea of “accessibility” is an important force of change on college campuses today. Accessibility is about making education accessible to all, and and it’s particularly focused on providing educational support to a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff with disabilities. According to the American with Disabilities Act, you can be considered disabled if you meet one of the following criteria:
If you meet one of these criteria, you have special legal rights to certain accommodations on your campus. These accommodations may include, but are not limited to, the following:
Assistive technologies and Web-accessibility accommodations are critical in today’s technology-driven economy and society. The following are some examples of assistive technologies are the following:
Students in the following video share some of their experiences with the Web accessibility. For more information about Web accessibility, visit http://webaim.org.
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