In all of Lawrence University’s surveys, admissions materials and, especially, Pres. Burstein’s Matriculation Convocation, we can see a definite urge to promote diversity on campus. Lawrence desires for a community of tolerant, empathetic, multi-background and multi-belief students. This desire creates multiple duties for the University, but its institutional methods may sometimes direct less focus towards what we as students can do besides simply Being Ourselves and Accepting Others.
If diversity is the goal, then listening, learning, tolerance and self-expression must be the means. Those actions will undoubtedly improve our community’s sense of diversity, but our attitudes while performing such acts can influence our ability to achieve that goal. Instead of the somewhat serious committees, surveys, convocations, discussions, organizations, etc., perhaps Lawrentians should assume an outwardly celebratory attitude in our discourse on diversity. Let the institution take care of the intricate social and educational mechanics; we students can handle the rest.
Tonight’s Cabaret performance provides perhaps the best example of this celebratory approach to diversity. Instead of Sampson or Raymond Houses’ bureaucracy or highbrow earnestness, the Memorial Chapel will be filled with dancing, music, laughter, and—most importantly—applause. Diversity won’t seem like some serious and complicated issue; it will be the source of unabashed joy.
While, for instance, the President’s Committee on Multicultural Affairs may work to support the institutional infrastructure that allows for the diversity on display in Cabaret, it takes festive communal bonds to lend that infrastructure its necessary human qualities. Lawrence students must accept that some of the most serious, methodical work on diversity takes place at the institutional level. However, opportunities such as Cabaret allow us to take up our special roles as the celebrators of our own diverse community.
That being said, we must also be aware that our perspectives on diversity lack a crucial component: So often we can get caught up with celebrating diversity, accepting it or admiring it, that we tend to see it as a prized token on the mantlepiece rather than an actual way of life. The result is that diverse practices and perspectives do not get incorporated into our own lives.
If we are to really promote diversity on campus, we need to accept that whatever we experience at Cabaret, hear at panels or read about on the internet is a valid way of life in some part of the world, and we can only call ourselves diverse as long as we consciously interact with diversity. That is by no means asserting that we must accept it and allow it to assimilate, but the rejection itself must be a conscious choice rather than the default response following a trend.