by Isabel Thottam
In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. in January, The University of Montana shared the photos of students who won an essay contest in which they asked participants to write about the impact MLK has had on their life. When they shared the photos on their Facebook page, the university was condemned for being tone deaf to the fact that all four winners were white women. Others pointed out that the university’s head of the African-American Studies program is a white male.
After taking down the photos, The University of Montana explained that they only received six essays for the contest–all from white students. On their updated post, the university wrote, “The criticism regarding only four white students who submitted and ultimately won the essay contest is fair. It is also troubling.”
This situation led to conversations about the state of diversity at the university, both with its faculty and leaders, and with its students. Though their initial Facebook post was insensitive, it sparked a discussion that needed to be held, especially if the university wants to receive a better turn out from a more diverse pool of participants next year. It also led to other schools taking a closer look at the way diversity functions on their campus.
The University of Montana is not alone—all institutions of higher education can do a better job at addressing issues of diversity on campus. The leaders of these institutions need to talk about why it’s important that they make diversity work at their schools—to avoid these types of problems, among others, as well as create a more successful environment that reflects all students.
In this article, we’ll address the following:
- Why is diversity beneficial to students?
- What is diversity fatigue and how do we avoid it?
- How do we make diversity a part of everyday life on campus?
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