Diversity demands discourse

By Christopher Benson

Without question, we are at a critical moment with respect to issues of diversity and multiculturalism on campus – a point suggested by the Daily Illini editorial “Inauspicious start for Inclusive Illinois” (Sept. 14). The DI has it right. In recognizing the merits of the Inclusive Illinois goals, the paper has challenged the Illinois administration to confront these compelling issues with action, not just words. In fact, this challenge would seem to extend to the entire campus – students, staff and faculty. Leadership is important. In part, it sends a vital message about the kind of place we want this campus to be. But we do not need to wait for solutions to come from on high. They can come from all levels, as the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiatives Committee has shown in issuing a five-year plan of action in this regard, and as Students Transforming Oppression and Privilege continue to demonstrate in pushing for progressive change – through word and deed. So, there is a leadership role for everyone. Clearly, the DI has one of the important voices to be heard, and hopefully the paper will continue to challenge us on its editorial page and through enterprise stories and features that will provide us with the context as well as the facts we need for deeper understanding and for enlightened choice making.

In this connection, it is important to note that, even while we push forward, we should not dismiss the value of discourse. Actions do speak louder than words, but the words can help determine the best possible course of action. Even those of us who feel we get it have something to learn from the dialogue. It has been said that we cannot begin to solve problems with the same mind that created them. Through the conversation, we can change minds – moving from conflict to consensus, moving to effect significant and lasting policy changes in the process. In the end, we all will benefit.