A historical perspective on diversity in higher education reveals a fluid and expansive definition of the concept of diversity. The definition originated in a segregated educational, political and social/cultural system in which “diverse” encompassed a relatively simple racial distinction between blacks (or persons of color) and whites. As a result of cultural and social changes reflected in changing laws, policies, demographics, and social-cultural norms, the generally accepted definition today encompasses many more parameters, including religion, country of origin, disability, age and sexual preference (Goodman, Moses and Jones 2012).
The definition has also expanded to encompass a holistic view of how a campus should function: as an entity in which the promise of diversity goes beyond access to acknowledge the benefits of diversity for all who are involved in the collegial process, whether students, faculty or staff. The challenge of implementing a commitment to the value of diversity and inclusion is to tie it to other core values of the institution, and to make it real through policies and practices, programs, curriculum and the living environment. Of particular interest in this regard are interactions among various student groups that identify themselves in terms of ethnicity, race, cultural, national heritage and the like. How do members of these various student groups negotiate transracial, transethnic and transcultural interactions? Do they self-segregate on the UCR campus or participate in campus life across membership lines?
UCR sits in an enviable situation nationally, as attested to by a recent interview with its chancellor in the Chronicle of Higher Education and its number one ranking by Time magazine using the criteria announced by President Obama’s proposed college ratings scorecard, one that measures universities according to graduation rates, tuition costs and percentage of students receiving Pell Grants. Nevertheless, the university can do better. This seminar would examine UCR itself in an attempt to help understand the contours, challenges and opportunities of its unparalleled diversity. The seminar would ask what it means for faculty, staff and students to value diversity and what we all need to strengthen efforts to reach our diversity goals. Through examinations of its programs, student surveys, interviews, focus group discussions and the insights of undergraduate and graduate seminar participants, this seminar would explore the ways in which diversity has changed and continues to change UCR in an effort to help the institution create the research, teaching and living roadmap for the diverse universities to come.