LETTER: DePauw University, diversity and campus climate

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LEANN BURKE / THE DEPAUW

The late Stuart Hall, internationally renowned cultural and social theorist, observed in 1991, “The capacity to live with difference is, in my view, the coming question of the 21st century.” Whatever heading we apply to the context – “difference,” “diversity,” “multiculturalism” – the fact remains: “it” is here and we must draw our attention to the ways in which “it” shapes us and how we shape “it.” 

I could easily start this letter with a simple question: What is diversity in a DePauw climate? Instead, however, the more pressing questions emerging in light of recent activities deserve more critical consideration: How does diversity shape DePauw’s climate and context? And, how does the manufacturing of diversity – of difference, really – shape student, staff, and faculty relationships? The gap between the first question and the second rests upon the paradox of the first to move beyond naming diversity, to naming difference. Diversity has become something legible, tangle and, even, marketable in ways it impacts DePauw. For example, walk into any of DePauw’s classrooms to find two, perhaps three, bodies of color whose mere existence represents “good diversity” work exhibited by the University. That these bodies index our troubled and troubling history – as a learning community constituted through the inclusion of different looking bodies – speaks volumes to the very investment in those bodies. 

The University needs these racialized bodies; likewise, these racialized bodies need the University. A less observable determinant of difference – socioeconomic class – also marks every University encounter. To suggest otherwise is a disservice to students, like myself, whose DePauw experiences were shaped in and through low-income status, observable or not. If the DePauw community by naming those features that separate us into existence stops short with mere recognition, then the urgency of the ‘how’ questions become imperative to consider. My sincerest regards goes to those bodies of difference whose shoulders bear the (in)visible violence brought on by those who fail to recognize the ways in which “diversity” shapes individual and collective experience at DePauw. 

 

To DePauw, with love,

Nic Flores ‘12