(this is not an April Fools post. This is a rough rough draft of an article I’m working on to submit to the Wheaton Record, the student newspaper at my alma mater, Wheaton College. I could really, really use some feedback on it. Is it effective in keeping your attention and making the point? Should I cut anything out, clarify… I could really use your feedback, thanks)
Why Wheaton’s Diversity Matters
Wheaton College, as an academic institution and as a Christian community, recognizes the importance of diversity. I saw an indication of this when I received my acceptance letter in the spring of 2001. You see, when Wheaton, as well as many other colleges, looks at applicants for admission, they take into consideration additional factors beyond simple academic performance. Wheaton does so because it recognizes the importance of a diverse student body. For example, there is special consideration for student athletes because we recognize the benefit sports bring to a college community. And there was special consideration for me, and many of you when you enrolled at this fine institution, simply because you are a male.
It’s no secret women, and particularly Wheaton women, are smarter then men. Incoming Wheaton females have higher gpa’s then Wheaton males, and the reality is that if admission was on academic qualification alone, Wheaton’s student body would probably be around 70% female. Yet, Wheaton College, for the benefit of both sexes and the community, intentionally maintains around a 50/50 female-to-male ratio. Why is that? Because Wheaton College recognizes the importance of diversity.
As was announced recently, Wheaton’s current president, A. Duane Litfin, will be retiring in the summer of 2010 and a presidential selection committee has been formed to choose the new president. In putting together the concise “qualifications desired” for the next president, the selection committee also recognized the importance of diversity, including this statement under “Commitment”
- To champion ethnic, economic, and gender diversity
In addition, the Selection Committee has been proactive in seeking out diverse candidates, including advertising the position in publications like Diversity in Higher Ed and Hispanic Educator.
Yet, despite a commitment to diversity, the selection committee contains only two women, out of ten positions, and one African American. It seems the importance of a gender balance in the student body, that I benefited from, does not carryover into areas such as selection committees, and highly unlikely it will carryover into consideration of presidential candidates.
Am I asking the selection committee to consider only female and minority candidates? If only I would be so bold. That would seem terribly unreasonable at this stage and so instead I ask this of the Selection Committee: Please take into careful consideration the depth of value the experiences of a female or minority candidate bring to the position of college president.
Wheaton College has had seven presidents in it’s 150 year history, Litfin’s tenure beginning in 1993. All seven of the past presidents have been white males and, if we are honest, we should acknowledge that our historical prejudices would not have allowed it otherwise. Compared to other academic institutions, Christian college presidents (in the CCCU) are far whiter and more male then their secular counterparts (no minority CCCU presidents and only 2% female, compared to 12.8% and 21.1% respectively in all national institutions).
If Wheaton College is as committed to diversity as we say we are, as the presidential qualifications acknowledge our commitment, and our admission consideration regarding gender acknowledges, then it behooves us to make diversity of primary importance in considering the next leader of this great academic institution.
(Ariah is currently collaborating with other alumni, faculty and current students on a collective statement to the Selection Committee regarding the importance of diversity to their selection of the next president. If you are interested in being a part of that statement or would be willing to help gather signatures, please email him)