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  • Writer's pictureMadeline Kim

CMU’s diversity indicates growth

Updated: May 9, 2022

On August 27 at 8:51 AM, a man on a 61D bus allegedly photographed students riding the bus. One passenger asked if he was a photographer, to which the man replied that he “[didn’t] like what he [saw]” at Carnegie Mellon, which he claimed he attended in the 1960s. When other passengers intervened, the man claimed he would “send these [photographs] to Trump when [he got] off.” Although no charges have been made thus far, detectives and both Carnegie Mellon University Police and Port Authority Police have been made aware of the situation.

This man’s reaction to Carnegie Mellon today, coupled with the political environment that the White House has arguably sanctioned, calls us to once again ask ourselves: why does diversity scare us?

Disagreement over diversity, especially racial diversity, is a topic that we can never seem to overcome in America. Our country was built on the notion that all men are created equal, and the U.S. prides itself in being a massive melting pot of various people and cultures. Recently, topics from affirmative action to voter suppression laws to Trump’s decision to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, make us constantly cognizant of the diverse nature of this country — and those who might oppose it, whether that be through explicit opposition of diversity or supporting policies that would hinder diversity.

Diversity in the context of college campuses is not a new topic. Policies such as affirmative action have had their fair share of criticism, some from high school seniors rejected from their dream schools who claim that such a policy gives students a disadvantage from a facet of their life that they cannot control.

However, it is imperative for us to not shy away from a topic simply because it is controversial or because it has already been discussed. The current Trump administration is seeking lawyers who are interested in working for “investigations and possible litigations related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” Furthermore, the removal of DACA would make higher education even less accessible for those who came to America as children, thus further reducing racial diversity in institutions of higher learning. Many powerful figures are making strides to end efforts for increasing diversity; still, many universities, especially top-tier schools, remain dedicated to expanding diversity.

Nobody can deny that the world in the 1960s is different than the world we live in today. With technological advances that might have been unimaginable 50 years ago globalization has been made significantly easier. Communicating with others regardless of geographic location has become more accessible. Today’s workforce requires people to be able to work with diverse groups of people, thus mandating people to be able to be respectful and considerate of other cultures, norms, and customs. Organizational behavior is increasingly important in the business world, and knowing how to work effectively in groups and teams is absolutely vital for the workforce. College should prepare students for whatever they wish to pursue after graduation, and if we cannot produce students who can work in diverse groups because we deprived students of such a necessary skill in the name of a desire for a white college student body, we would commit a great disservice to white students and an even greater one for non-white students who are not given the opportunity to pursue college experiences.

Additionally, the U.S. has also seen vast societal changes between the 1960s and today. Although Brown vs. Board of Education had been passed in 1954, there was still a division between the quality of education whites and non-whites received, thus placing non-whites at a disadvantage. In 1960, just over 40 percent of whites completed at least a high school diploma, which heavily contrasts to the 20 percent of African-Americans with high school diplomas. Although the education level gap between whites and non-whites is still significant, it is clear that it is closing. Education should be accessible to those who are willing to pursue it regardless of ethnicity, and universities across the states have caught up on that notion.

Now, let’s approach racial diversity on a much more personal level: here at Carnegie Mellon. In the 60s, this university was noticeably different from the university we proudly call home today. Every year, the incoming freshman class surpasses that of the class before, and admissions become tougher. We have seen our acceptance rate decrease every year and there is an increase in both competitiveness and diversity. Of course, we are not arbitrarily selecting students merely based on ethnicity, despite criticisms of those who claim affirmative action is implementing a sense of "entitlement in blacks." Former president Subra Suresh made it a priority to encourage Carnegie Mellon to grow as a diverse community, which he recognized as a massive strength, and current interim president Farnam Jahanian continues this legacy by “reaffirm[ing] that diversity and inclusion have a singular place among the values of this university.”

“A diverse and inclusive community,” he states in his letter following the Charlottesville incident in August, “is the foundation for excellence in learning, research, creativity, and human development.”

More imperatively, each recipient of an acceptance letter receives it because of merit. To deny students of that because of a wish to revert back to white America would be a disgrace to America and a complete disservice for each student who had rightfully earned a place in this community. Excellence does not care about heritage: excellence is accomplished through hard work, passion, and fulfilling potential. This is a university with countless innovations, from soft robotics to well-known apps such as Duolingo and GroupMe.We continuously push the boundaries of technology and change the way this world functions, and without the help of diverse students who provide unique insights, creativity, and determination, we would not be the world’s top leaders.

Diversity is merely one of many facets that make Carnegie Mellon University such a special place for higher learning. Students from over a hundred countries put their hearts into their work both inside and outside the classroom. Just as Earth does not stay constant, neither does this university.

To all students who are racial minorities: you belong here.

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