Diversity. It seems slightly ludicrous that such a simple word possesses so much power, meaning and influence over an entire generation. But it does, and any institution in our current climate would be remiss to ignore the necessity of a multi-cultural population. Thus, it’s only natural for those of us attending Sonoma State to keep commenting on our level of diversity, or lack thereof.
“Coming to SSU, I was told that the majority [of the school] was white,” said sophomore Sarah Wong. “Attending now, I see it’s very true.”
Unfortunately, my experience so far has mirrored Wong’s.
To many people, student and staff alike, my status as a freshman renders me inferior. But there’s one thing I possess which older students lack: a different perspective. With my foot still grazing the backdoor of high school, my perceptions of Sonoma State and its population are undeniably underscored by the fact that I was recently a member of a wildly divergent community – a place smack-dab in the middle of diverse Downtown Oakland.
I attended Oakland School for the Arts (known as OSA), a performing arts charter school in the historic Fox Theater of Oakland. With academics in the morning and arts according to specific emphasis (vocal music, instrumental music, theater, dance, visual arts, literary arts, digital media, production design, and even circus arts) in the afternoon, OSA boasted a menagerie of wonders to both its middle and high school students.
A more multifarious institution you could not find. Strolling down the hallways was a wonderful experience, as a color palette of individuals ranging from the palest of beiges to the richest of browns met the eye.
Is it obvious that I was a visual artist?
Regardless, the statistics don’t lie. According to 2013 ratings, student ethnicity at OSA is distributed relatively evenly with 31 percent white, 24 percent African American, 19 percent mixed race, and 14 percent Hispanic/Latino. Needless to say, my transition from that disparate environment to the seeming uniformity of Sonoma State was more than a little difficult.
Sadly, walking about our lovely, quaint campus does not inspire the artist to paint a colorful canvas of culture.
A sea of white is perhaps my best description of a foray into the midst of the university. Though that may sound a bit eccentric, I’m not alone in my opinion.
“Sonoma’s definitely not very diverse,” said freshman Maddy Portesi. “Compared to my high school, it’s actually pretty sad.” While it’s not hard to find students willing to discuss the apparent lack of diversity here, recent statistics cement the fact that SSU really needs to up its multiplicity game.
CSU Mentor presents a first year student enrollment breakdown which certainly concurs with my assessment of race and ethnicity on our campus. According to the website, our recently enrolled students are 57.3 percent white, 22.5 percent Hispanic/Latino, 5.2 mixed races, and 3.5 percent black or African American.
That’s not what I’d call a diverse environment.
I don’t think I should even have to explain why diversity in every institution, private or public, is a good thing.
Surely we are far enough along in our society to realize the ethical and spiritual benefits of solidarity with an array of differing peoples. Tolerance and acceptance cannot come without first-hand knowledge of others’ appearance, experiences and practices. It’s simple; we need diversity.
So what can we do to increase the level of non-white students at SSU? Besides the obvious accepting of more races to our school, most students seem to be at a loss as to what to do. Well, here’s how I see it.
A majority of the students who apply here are white, so it’s no wonder the campus is peppered with pale faces.
What we need to do is direct our recruitment of new students toward more African American, Asian and Latino communities to balance the uniformity.
Also, if the expense of tuition and various other fees which may or may not be necessary were to be lowered, you can be sure that a bevy of multi-cultural and ethnically diverse students would happily apply.
With the disbandment of the dreaded success fee, we are one step closer to inviting more diversity.
Sonoma State doesn’t have to be exactly like my high school. But adding a splash of color to the sea of white certainly can’t hurt.