It is always curious seeing students of color plastered all over the marketing of predominantly white institutions (PWIs). On the one hand, it is always wonderful to see marginalized groups put in the spotlight and given a chance to shine. On the other hand, if those same faces only make up a fraction of the university’s population, is this practice a shallow attempt to sell yourself as “diverse”?
Using diversity as a selling point gets dangerously close to tokenism. While it is valuable to note that there are a variety of people on campus, it gets dangerous when the diversity shown does not match the campus environment.
Most students are split on diversity marketing. On the one hand, it feels like the bottom of the barrel for a college to have a, “Oh, look at us! We’re not like the other discriminatory colleges. We’re doing the bare minimum,” kind of moment if you will.
And beyond that, what kind of diversity are they talking about? Race? Sexuality? Height? You do not see that specified too often either, and it leads one to wonder if that is intentional. On the other hand, it can be good leverage for when the administration messes up, since they do not want anything to go messing up their reputation of diversity.
Diversity is fundamental to a constructive learning environment. It should really be the bare minimum, not something to be used as an advertising gimmick.
If any university wants to claim diversity as a strength, they need to ensure they are genuinely diverse. Plastering the same students of color on all marketing material is not enough.
Some will argue that using diversity is a bare minimum thing to advertise. It is equivalent to advertising that the university has running water.
It is an expectation, not something to be surprised about. In fact, “advertising” diversity is more dehumanizing than anything. It simply feels like it is another “check-off” the list of brownie points supposed to be catered to minorities. Some Asian American students of Shippensburg University have been vocal about being viewed as a statistic rather than a person. Just another percentile to be added to the university’s pool rather than a student succeeding.
Why are we singling students out? Aren’t we supposed to be a community? Students are not a token, race is not a token, sexuality is not a token, disability is not a token, take it out of your marketing campaign. We should not be “selling” students.