Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Dec. 20, 1996

Diversity issues discussed during campus forum

By Diana Pounds & Linda Charles
Following are selected comments from the Dec. 4 campus-wide forum to discuss diversity issues. The forum, "Strategies for Change at ISU," drew 175 observers and comments from a number of ISU administrators, faculty, staff and students.

Martin Jischke, ISU president
On the challenges of diversity: I don't believe that these challenges are due to the fact that we have not been addressing issues of diversity. Increasing diversity has been one of Iowa State's top priorities and we can point to a lengthy list of initiatives that the university has mounted over the last five years to support increasing diversity. What I want to do is raise some questions for you that I think together we have to try to deal with. The first one is: How do we, in fact, share the promise of diversity for all of us here at Iowa State? Are the things we're doing really making a difference in enhancing the climate for our university, especially at the level of individuals on a personal basis?

On Carrie Chapman Catt: I have read the book she compiled on women suffrage by federal constitutional amendment ... In particular, I have read all of chapter 6 and the quote that has been used to characterize her as a racist -- dealing with white supremacy.... I did not interpret that chapter to mean that she at all embraced white supremacy. I've not been able to find any of her writings that suggest that she did. ... My conclusion is that her motives were honorable, she was not a racist and she made accomplishments that are worthy of the recognition [Carrie Chapman Catt Hall].

Derrick Rollins, associate professor of chemical engineering and statistics, and diversity adviser to the president's cabinet
On recruiting minority faculty: What comes out is, "I hope we don't reduce the quality of what we're doing by going out and recruiting faculty." That issue comes up quite a bit, or is in the back of people's minds. And I sit there at those meetings sometimes very offended because I think about the African American faculty who are at Iowa State and I think to myself, "Where has quality really declined" in terms of recruiting African American faculty? And yet, the perception is there. It's real.

On students' responsibility: I don't really see a lot of effort on the students' part to address the problem of coming together with different groups of people. For the most part, I see [student] organizations are pretty secluded and isolated when it comes to race. To me, the best education is not going to be listening to your professor on diversity, or it's not going to come from courses you take. It's going to come from taking the initiative to get to know one another, to invite each other to different functions. We're not even thinking about the small things we can do to begin to attack the problem. We're waiting for someone else to legislate, or someone else to take the initiative, when there are a lot of things that we can do ourselves to take the initiative to come together, to get to know each other.

Randy Alexander, director of residence
We need to avoid identifying rejection of our point of view as being the equivalent of bias or racism. ... One thing I hope we all can agree upon is the right of everyone to hold his or her point of view, to express it ... even if we don't agree with it. In order to do that, we need to be able to communicate honestly. I don't think that we appreciate sometimes how profoundly awkward we are as a culture in talking about some of the issues that we talk about. ... Sometimes things are said because we're awkward with each other. Sometimes things are said that we disagree with or because the person saying it simply doesn't understand that point of view. In order to make progress, we have to have honest communication. In order for that to happen, we need to be able to cut each other some slack.

Larhonda Potts, ISU senior and representative of multicultural support groups in the residence halls
One concern I have as far as the recruitment of African American students is that the university tends to go to within the city of Chicago, in the inner city. I'm from Kansas City, Mo., and I felt if they had come to me and tried to recruit me to the university, maybe I would have a different perception of it.

Lang Tran, representative of the Asian Pacific American Awareness Coalition
Too often the needs of Asian students are neglected because they are considered a model minority. This stereotype is just as dangerous as attacking a minority. ISU is attempting to diversify its campus. In order to do that, Asian voices need to be heard. We want recognition and support from the university. This can be done through concrete plans for the creation of an Asian cultural center.

Jamey Hansen, representative of the Government of the Student Body
Diversity should be a part of every class. ... Are my professors and instructors trained how to teach multiculturally? Are they asked to handle multicultural programs? What kind of training are they receiving? And if they're not, why not?

Bill Woodman, president of Faculty Senate
One of the things that faculty communicated to me is that there's a need to talk to each other and to talk individually. You don't change hearts and minds either by marching or by posters. ... I think that students particularly would be really quite amazed to find how much their professors would like to talk to them about whatever is on their minds.

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