Letter to the Editor: Student-led diversity conversation should keep growing louder

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

We write in regards to the recent ongoing conversations about diversity, inspired by the March 16 Strategic Planning Town Hall Forum.

As many of you know, on March 22 Juan Acosta published an article in The Tartan calling for campus leaders to seriously commit to diversity efforts. As a result, undergraduate and graduate students, supported by staff and administration, united as a Student Diversity Committee.

We recognize that it is everyone’s responsibility, including students’, to play a role in fostering a diverse campus community. As a result, we did our part by hosting two student-driven Diversity Forums on April 9 and April 10.

This letter seeks to elevate the voices of students who participated in the forums and calls on Carnegie Mellon’s leadership to share in these continued efforts.

1) Recruiting a Diverse Student Body

Participants in the forums emphasized that expanding Carnegie Mellon’s socioeconomic diversity and representation of domestic minorities is key for developing tomorrow’s leaders. The recent changes to Carnegie Mellon’s underrepresented minority pipeline program (SAMS) has many students concerned that pipeline programs may be disappearing or getting less support.

We call on the university to commit more funding and resources to its pipeline programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Specifically, we call on the university to focus on efforts such as locally recruiting underrepresented minorities, increasing the percentage of Pell Grant Recipients (in 2013-14 it was only 13 percent), and offering diversity-based fellowships to graduate students.

2) Students’ Learning Experience

Another primary concern at the forums was the representation of diverse faculty and the impact on students’ learning experience. As one participant noted: “It’s hard to see yourself in faculty or staff, but easy in CulinArt.” In addition to faculty representation, the nature of the university’s research and curriculum should address issues of diversity with rigor and open-ended inquiry.

We call on the university to prioritize diversity in hiring faculty and ongoing support for minority employees once they are hired. We call on faculty from across the university to include structured conversations about diversity in their classrooms. Additionally, we call on deans and department heads to direct funding toward research that addresses diversity-based issues.

3) Extracurricular Support  

A third recurring theme in our discussions was the siloing of the student body on campus, often by race and culture. We recognize that if students do not engage with those who are different from them, then having a diverse population becomes meaningless.

This siloing of students is often reinforced by the structure of student organizations. We call on the university to provide more advising and funding support for campus-wide diversity programming, especially between student organizations.

We were inspired by the great turnout and the level of critical reflection offered by participants at both diversity forums. The Millennial generation, in particular, is critically attuned to issues of race, gender, class, culture, varying capabilities, and sexual identity. Students offer invaluable insight to Carnegie Mellon’s campus discussions about diversity, and we look forward to seeing this insight reflected in the university’s strategic plan and ultimate implementation.

Our heart is in the work and we hope yours is, too.