Students from multiple backgrounds gathered to talk about campus diversity issues and how to educate students on sensitive subjects at the first HOPE Council General Body meeting Wednesday.
HOPE Council was created last semester as means of for underrepresented student groups to communicate their concerns to administration. The council is made up of delegates from its member organizations, but meetings are open to all students.
Wednesday’s conversation quickly shifted to diversity after HOPE conducted general introductions, and the students present voiced their opinions on different ways to educate the student body and make campus a more inclusive place.
“I think that sometimes-especially in these particular organizations as they’re engaged on campus diversity means different things, and perhaps there’s a discrepancy between the university’s use for the definition diversity and the students use of that word,” HOPE President Sean Della Croce said.
Although diversity has a wide variety of definitions, a common thread to all those definitions is inclusion, HOPE’s Vice President of Cultural Relations Ethan Jones said.
Jones suggested Belmont should first accept and acknowledge the diverse groups it already has instead of spending money to bring more minority students to campus for appearance’s sake.
“Belmont doesn’t have to spend another dollar trying to get more black people on campus, more gay people on campus or diverse people on campus,” Jones said. “We don’t need more numbers. I think, personally, as long as every historically underrepresented student here on campus now feels like this is a safe haven, a space where they feel included, I feel like by default we’re automatically a diverse community.”
The delegates also discussed the challenge of talking about diversity issues directly with their peers in the majority population of Belmont.
Black Student Association delegate Jeremy Capps pointed out how the low number of minority students are burdened with explaining to other students and professors that something said in conversation might be offensive to minority students.
BSA President Justin Lang echoed this, and said it shouldn’t be the job of black or other minority students to educate everyone. Education needs to happen at the institutional level, and Belmont needs to equip its professors with the knowledge to handle students of diverse backgrounds, Lang said.
“Educating people can be exhausting sometimes,” said Lang. “When I feel like it’s healthy for me or when I feel mentally in a good place, I will facilitate that conversation and I will enjoy those conversations. It’s as an institution saying ‘We as an institution care about this, we as an institution want these conversations.’”
Jones said one way for Belmont to solve the is to introduce a course on diversity, while HOPE Vice President of Finance Caroline Moore suggested Belmont add a diversity education course for incoming freshman similar to AlcoholEdu to lay the groundwork for understanding diversity.