The Rev. Dr. Victor Aloyo Jr. spoke passionately on how universities must tackle the challenge of diversity at a convocation Monday morning.
Aloyo is the Chief Diversity Administrator and Director of Multicultural Relations at the Princeton Theological Seminary. He is also the father of Alyssa Aloyo, who serves as president of the Hispanic Student Association at Belmont, which hosted the convocation.
In the last several years, universities have a seen a rise in incidents where students showed insensitivity toward diversity and issues of race, said Aloyo in his convocation.
He pointed to instances at the University of Oklahoma and North Carolina State University earlier this year, where fraternities were suspended for members using racially offensive language. He also referenced the discovery of a noose at Duke University in April.
“‘Such incidents have become more common due to the debate on immigration, police brutality and an African-American president in the White House,’” Aloyo said, quoting Marybeth Gasman, a professor and expert on diversity in higher education at the University of Pennsylvania.
Universities need to address systemic oppression within higher education by creating an environment that sustains diversity rather than one that simply reacts to race incidents, said Aloyo.
“The constant M.O. of higher education is that when there’s an incident that happens on campus, there’s a letter that comes normally from higher executive administration for the entire campus to do something, and then that’s it,” he said. “There’s nothing that’s sustainable.”
A major cause behind this problem is an underlying mentality of exclusion at universities.
“You may be invited to join the circle, but are you welcomed?” Aloyo said.
While institutions are trying to diversify their campuses, there’s a lack of support at the curricular level, said Aloyo.
“There’s this great thrust at this moment because institutions read all these numbers,” Aloyo said. “They understand that they need to be able to diversify their student body for the sake of being inclusive, but the fact is that you are not solely a number or a statistic in a particular setting.”
Rather than view diverse students as just numbers, Aloyo said universities should embrace the varied backgrounds within their student bodies to provide an inclusive infrastructure that fosters diversity.
“It’s about who we are; it’s about our stories; it’s about our lineages; it’s about our cultures that makes us who we are,” he said. “Get to know who I am. Get to know my plight. Get to understand my circumstances in order for you to see me as a person with certain skills sets, rather than an individual who’s just going to fulfill your particular numbers.”