Well, now that Kevin is gone…
Wait, I’m still here. I’m now mostly moved into my new home, figured out which box my computer was in, and am hard at work at getting my spring classes planned. There was also talk of having the feature in this edition of TechAlum talk about issues surrounding diversity, and I was happy to share a few thoughts. There’s much to talk about, and as I’m writing this on the holiday celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, it all seems quite fitting.
Look, we all know that Michigan Tech’s history hasn’t been one of tremendous diversity. And that’s not an indictment of the institution: there have been social and cultural issues throughout the past 130 years that have brought us to today.
When I worked in Student Affairs and Advancement, I did get the opportunity to see how hard so many people have worked to bring broader perspectives to campus. This is important, since we don’t get all of the ideas and perspectives available to us unless we welcome diverse individuals on to the same project. A team made up exclusively of like-minded people from the same background and with the same identity is very likely to miss a possibility, an opportunity.
There’s one other element of diversity I wanted to discuss. It’s something that comes up all of the time, and it’s one thing I think we could all change to universal benefit: understanding that not all diversity is immediately identifiable. Race and sex tend to be identifiable, but elements like religion, gender identity, and a whole host of beliefs and perspectives cannot be simply assumed.
Christa Spielman, assistant director of Tech’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion came to my classes this past fall—I wanted a demonstration for my students about the challenges and pitfalls that can come from making assumptions about the audience of your work. It’s tricky, as communicators we need to make a certain number of assumptions, but she also covered those elements that aren’t really outwardly visible.
Like many people, I have elements about myself that are very much in the minority, but I usually don’t express them. It is a luxury not everyone has, being able to blend into the majority in such a way. It’s the very definition of privilege.
What does all of this mean? It means looking at our statistics and knowing what they mean, the acknowledgement that our faculty and staff have been working very hard to bring in diverse perspectives by ensuring a diverse student body. It means that, while our female/male ratio isn’t exactly balanced, there are initiatives—both from us and a variety of organizations around the country—working to dispel myths of ability and aptitude.
Michigan Tech is becoming a more diverse place every day. Maybe we aren’t quite where we want to be just yet, but the ship of society and culture does not steer easily. It’s hard to deny, however, that we want more perspectives in our labor and our leisure: it’s hard to imagine, in fact, that we wouldn’t want the greatest opportunity to find the best ideas.
Thanks for reading.
Editor’s note: Thanks to Kevin for writing one last article for us. Over the next couple of months, a variety of writers will be featured in this space. We also want to hear from you on what type of content you’d like to see in Tech Alum.