Staff editorial: Toeing the line

Illustration Illustration

Illustration Illustration

By Editorial Board

Trinity College has a special orientation at their Hartford, Conn., campus that provides mentors, cultural field trips and social activities to incoming minority students. The goal is to encourage bonding and a sense of community among minorities – and to show them that a support network exists.

Yet, according to the Princeton Review, Trinity ranks high among campuses that feature “Little Race/Class Interaction.” Based on the survey, critics now say Trinity’s minority programs encourage separatism rather than inclusiveness.

A special orientation for incoming minority students might help them get to know one another before everyone else arrives on campus, but it toes the fine line between diversity and separatism. One might wonder whether this kind of orientation program actually is helping diversity efforts or hindering them.

An alternative would be an orientation for all students that promotes awareness of different cultures rather than delivering such information only to minority students. After all, the student body as a whole can’t make a coordinated effort toward multicultural understanding when white students aren’t given the same introduction to these programs.

The merits of minority programs at educational institutions have long been debated. Supporters say minority programs help protect and nurture groups that normally would be lost in the mix of white-dominated culture. Meanwhile, opponents say minority programs segregate and create divisions among students.

Do minority programs strengthen ties within individual groups at the expense of large communities? Not if they are implemented correctly. While these programs cater to specific groups, nobody says outsiders can’t participate. What’s difficult is breaking down the stigma that those who aren’t part of an ethnic group or race can’t participate in those cultural programs.

Participation in these programs and events is not a one-way street – if the idea is to have diversity, then minority programs should make a concerted effort to reach out to the entire campus community. These programs must be open to outsiders rather than exclusive to a specific race or ethnicity. What’s more, efforts should be made to make outsiders feel more accepted.

Minority programs are a way of welcoming those who might be overlooked in a large community, and that shouldn’t change. Additionally, being able to celebrate one’s unique heritage and common roots is important. However, these aims shouldn’t be met at the expense of cultural integration.