Sunday, March 3, 2024

Opinion: Unmasking the illusion: The university’s troubling approach to diversity

OpinionOpinion: Unmasking the illusion: The university’s troubling approach to diversity

BY IARA LUQUE
Copy Desk Chief





BY LARISSA VERONICA HEATHER
Managing Visuals and Layout Editor




Free promotion. False advertisement. Artificial diversity. 

These are the concerning facets of an ongoing predicament at the university, where the First Year Experience (FYE) course stands at the center of controversy. This mandatory course, designed to provide a smooth transition for all incoming students, appears to harbor an unsettling secret. 

International students, those who have journeyed from distant corners of the globe, find themselves thrust into a distinct section of the course, one with a final project being a promotional video (all for a grade) that will be played for the next year’s international students.

A troubling revelation emerges: International students are unwittingly conscripted into a marketing campaign that serves to create a facade of diversity. The university deploys international students as pawns without their full understanding, employing them to project an illusion of a diversified class.

In the university’s own words, “Our doors are open to you … And it allows all UD students to broaden their worldview while working toward a better future.”

Despite the warm-toned, multifaceted message, the result is a veneer of diversity carefully crafted for the institution’s image, overshadowing the genuine experiences of international students. As these concerns come to light, the very essence of diversity on campus is called into question. 

With a total of 24 FYE sections available, the question naturally arises: Why not embrace true diversity and assist international students in American society by encouraging interaction and dialogue with their American counterparts? 

Per the university’s policy, it is“committed to free expression and academic freedom …[and]  committed to creating and maintaining an environment free from discrimination and harassment for all members of the University community.”

While in non-international sections of this course the video project serves as a practical means to familiarize students with the campus, its objectives and benefits seem markedly distinct for international students.

Amid these concerns, the university is steadfast in its commitment to non-discrimination: “The University of Delaware does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, age, veteran status, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.”

So why does this project hold such significance? It unveils the underlying reasons behind the segregation of international students from their American counterparts, exposing a troubling reality of artificial diversity.

Artificial diversity is a contrived form of inclusivity that lacks the authenticity and richness of true diversity. It involves hand-picking and isolating select groups to showcase as the epitome of diversity while sidelining the experiences of others. The misalignment with the very essence of diversity as defined by Oxford, which underscores “the quality, condition, or fact of being diverse,” raises important questions. 

The disparities in demographics at the university are telling. According to statistics from Institutional Research and Effectiveness (IRE), the student body of undergraduates comprises 68.4% white, 9.7% Hispanic, 6.4% Black, and 5.6% Asian students. IRE reports that only 3.7% of the undergraduate student population is international. In comparison, institutions like Cornell University boast a significantly higher global student population, accounting for approximately 24% of its student body.

Despite the university’s larger undergraduate population, the relative scarcity of international students suggests a stark contrast. The use of artificial diversity becomes apparent when the university promotes this carefully curated group as representative of the entire student body. 

The experience of international students, as showcased during International Student Orientation, appears alluring, emphasizing abundant resources and the supposed size of the international class. 

The idyllic images and narratives presented are nothing more than staged scenarios orchestrated to meet the requirements of the FYE course and further the illusion of diversity. 

The opinions expressed by Larissa Veronica Heather and Iara Luque are their own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review staff. They may be reached at lvh@udel.edu and iaruluq@udel.edu.

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