Campus more exclusive than inclusive


By Emma Goodwin

I recently read an article published by the Chicago Tribune that stated that nearly ten percent of this year’s University freshmen are students who came from China. While this is a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and diversify our education, I can already see why this could pose a problem for our current underclassmen after going here for just one year.

If you’re a student of any nationality here, you’ve probably noticed an extreme cultural gap between international students and students born and raised here in the United States — from the various languages spoken to the way people get on the bus, and everything in between. Despite the various, but limited, inclusion programs at the University, each cultural group seems to be secluded from one another, which is problematic when trying to form a cohesive student body.

Even the comments on some University-oriented social media sites include rude and offensive words about international students who are supposed to be our peers, which makes it clear that there is a disparity between international students and students from the states.

With the added benefit of extremely steep prices on any foreign student’s tuition, it’s understandable why the University wants them to compose such a large part of our student population, in addition to diversifying the campus.

What’s not understandable, though, is why it seems like there are limited programs to make us feel like one student body. Instead, there is a stark feeling of separation.

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    Yes, freshmen have a brief orientation program within their own majors. Yes, we have the I-Connect Diversity and Inclusion Workshop. Within the dorms, there are different cultural programs (that, to me, always seemed to educate American students about other countries but not vice versa) hosted throughout the year.

    But the fact of the matter is that many of these programs throw unenthusiastic students into a classroom with a few student supervisors. Many sign in for credit and mentally check out for the rest of the seminar. And then the University decides that the one-hour program is a sufficient ice-breaker, that one hour is enough to work through cultural and language barriers and make everyone best friends with sunshine and rainbows for the entire year, apparently.

    However, this isn’t enough to break through all of the frigid ice and bring international students out of secluded friend groups, and the same goes for students from the United States. With the Global Crossroads Living-Learning Community and limited dorms that stay open during break periods, it makes sense why most students who are studying abroad at the University get filtered into PAR and ISR residence halls.

    Even still, this should not serve as an excuse for the limited integration done by the University to ensure that transfer students and American students mingle, talk or even meet. It’s unfair to the entire student body to have such limited programming. It can give international students a disjointed, and sometimes cold, impression of what America actually is.

    And it doesn’t help that the language barrier is only fixable on a one-way street. While any non-native English speaker wanting to study here must take an English test, there are many different components to being proficient in a language. While you might be an excellent reader of a certain language, you might not be able to easily pick it up while listening or speaking. And even if you feel like an excellent speaker in the classroom, it is much different being immersed among native speakers when slang and dialects are incorporated.

    The burden of socializing is then put, unfortunately, almost entirely on Chinese students, as they speak English, but Chinese is not a language frequently taught in American schools. If most transfer students were from Spain, Mexico or France, more American students might be able to more comfortably and confidently start conversation, and vice versa. This language barrier is the fault of nobody, and yet, we are all facing the consequences of it due to what I feel are limited integration attempts by the University.

    Instead of throwing everyone into the same student body, adding fuel to various prejudices, taking in big tuition payments and calling it a successfully diverse University, more effort should be put into trying to teach American students about international culture and international students about American culture.

    There are so many different components to creating a cohesive, spirited and successful student body, and we have a long way to go to make campus inclusiveness as effective as it could be.

    Emma is a sophomore in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected].