Photo illustration by Andoni Flores and Peter Caty

Photo illustration by Andoni Flores and Peter Caty

The issue of diversity has been brought up many times recently on this campus. The problem is understood, yet finding the solution is much more complex. Progress will take time, but how far it goes starts and stops with us.

Earlier in the semester, Princeton released a poll involving diversity. The results showed Fairfield as number one with the least race and class interaction. Two things ran through my mind when I read that. First, how could a poll like that be put together? Can a survey or review really tell what daily interaction is like at a University? I don’t think that’s totally accurate. Secondly, I did think it further exposed an issue that has been gaining more and more attention in recent years.

The University has been trying to do its part. Fairfield’s minority population has increased to 15 percent over the last few years. That rise, coupled with the efforts of the Diversity office, has made a strong push in a positive direction. However, even with this effort, there seems to be a divide between minority groups and the rest of the Fairfield population.

One of the most noticeable things to me is the lack of Caucasian students that participate in the Diversity office. Steve Parker ’10 thinks that some students just aren’t used to the interaction with different ethnic groups.

“Maybe people feel intimidated by [the Diversity office], that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t feel they are diverse, [they may] just not comfortable in that situation,” Parker said.
Alexis Durand ’10, a student with a Peruvian background, thinks there has been a major change in his time here.

“When I first got here from New York City, it was a culture shock,” said Durand.  “As the years passed, I noticed that the school became more and more ethnically diverse. With more time, I think it will keep getting better.”

The Diversity office puts programming together all year long for students to explore different backgrounds and find similarities between themselves and other people. Will Johnson, the director of diversity programs, explained that his office presents opportunities but students have to do the rest.

“It’s almost a natural human reaction to go towards what’s similar to us,” Johnson said. “Our challenge is to encourage people to break that mold.”
Different groups on campus are trying to help in the school’s effort. Tyron Shaw ’11 is a member of Omega Phi Kappa Multicultural Fraternity. He feels that his group, along with others, are the answer to gaining more involvement.

“It isn’t just about individual people by themselves, different groups have to come together and put things out there that a majority of students will enjoy and they will come,” said Shaw.

It’s clear that all sides are uncomfortable to a certain degree. For many minority students, being the minority is a new thing. In many cases, they have come from a hometown in which they were the majority. On the other side, many Caucasian students haven’t encountered this issue before on a daily basis. Although the Diversity office has a strong minority student base, Meredith Marquez, the Assistant Director of Diversity programs, made it clear that every background and heritage is represented, which is the point of the entire program.  Marquez explained the importance of diversity in peoples’  lives and the role the Diversity office can play in creating an environment to learn more about its impact.

“No matter what field you’re entering after school, it’s much more diverse than where you are now. It’s extremely important to be able work with people of different backgrounds,” Marquez said. “I hope everyone knows that our office is always open. If we don’t hear from you, we don’t know what you think.”

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