Letter to the Editor

Chelsea Wantland

When I discovered that the assistant dean for multicultural affairs position was being restructured for next year due to budget cuts, I was angry. I was angry, upset, hurt, but not surprised. I felt vindicated for all the harsh criticisms I have felt for this institution.
The longer I am here, the more I realize the depth of hypocrisy and apathy this university holds in regard to its policies and attitudes toward diversifying the faculty/staff, student body and campus.
The diversity center is a resource for not only students of color but also for students with other aspects of diversity, including gender, sexuality, religion, and many others. The assistant dean for multicultural affairs reaches out to these students and helps them adjust and assimilate into the predominate culture that is not their own. The assistant dean reaches out to the entire student body and the greater Appleton community to offer support and opportunities for education.
In the past two years, there have been immense changes going on in the position due to the tireless efforts put forth by Mohammed Bey and his predecessor Erik Farley. The fact that the university even considered restructuring the position shows what little regard the administrators hold for the amount of work and the sacrifices these men have made to better this institution.
Recently, I discovered the university has reconsidered the decision and decided not to restructure the position. I am relieved and happy, but I am NOT satisfied. There is so much more that needs to be done on campus to incorporate diversity into everyday life.
The students need to see minorities better represented in the faculty/ staff positions and in the curriculum. This year, the freshman studies course did not include any issues of diversity. The MLK Jr. speech was removed and not replaced by any other diverse author. By retaining the position as is, we haven’t taken any steps back in progress but we haven’t taken any steps forward either.
Students may feel that the campus is diverse and that they have been exposed to people from different cultures and backgrounds, but when we really reflect on our experiences here, those encounters outside of our comfort zone are minimal, and the opportunities to understand one another’s perspective and point of view are few and far between.
While the university did the right thing by not restructuring the position, I feel it was more to avoid the pressure and angry backlash from students and alumni than it was from genuine understanding and concern for what the effects that such a decision would have on the students and university as a whole.
Students hold more power on this campus for change than we realize. We need to stop complaining and start changing things we don’t like, and we need hold the institution responsible for its actions, or lack there of, that affect our friends, colleagues, and ourselves and ultimately hinder our education and growth as people.
If we, as the educated elite, haven’t had the opportunity or support needed to explore and move beyond racial boundaries, how can we expect the rest of the world to? While this small victory has enormous implications, I urge everyone not to forget the feelings the decision to restructure the position raised in you, but to hold on to that and use it to view this institution through a new lens. We have the power to leave Lawrence a better place than when we found it. It is ultimately up to us to do so.Chelsea Wantland
Class of 2010