Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Campus differences need more student discussion

Walking across Augustana’s campus, returning students may have noticed the new banners on their way to class. Each “difference” banner proclaims a positive message. Glancing at them, I would never be able to discern that the change was to create a more empathetic and understanding environment for students, faculty, and staff based on discussions that ensued after cases of racial harassment occurred last year.
The question is, do these signs truly inspire any type of conversation? Do they inspire any dialogue of why such harmful actions would take place on a liberal arts campus?
While I applaud the Communications and Marketing team on the positivity that the signs portray, I had hopes for a much more aggressive response on a campus that just accepted the most diverse class its ever had, where one in four students is multicultural or international.
Growth of diversity students has grown quickly over a short time on Augustana’s campus. Ten years ago, there were only 45 incoming multicultural students [not including international students], versus 152 in 2014. With a 25 percent multicultural student statistic for the class of 2018, the trend presents a significant increase. Whenever something like that occurs, adjustments have to be made.
The ideas, insightful reflections, and realizations that were presented in the forum on racism in the spring can’t possibly be represented within one banner, or even the handful that are posted.  Does simply replacing banners truly cause a shift in mentality for the student body? Does it make anyone want to take an “Augustand” when they see an act of injustice?
While Augustana has made gains in diversity, there is still a clear majority perspective on campus. The “Augie bubble” surrounds campus as well as the campus’s overall mentality. Our differences should inspire dialogue over issues not just of race, but issues concerning socioeconomic status, being a first generation student, etc. which affect the community as a whole, inspire more conversation, and broaden our cultural horizons.
This is not just an institutional issue, but an issue for our student body. The large majority of those who attended the forum were faculty and staff. For such an important issue, the student attendance was shockingly low. The lack of interest from student leaders, almost appalling.
Our difficulties can’t just be attributed to lack of effort on the institution’s part, but a lack of interest. It boils down to one core difference; a majority of Augustana students often come from an intercultural environment, no matter what their background is. The desire to experience and talk about any type of social issue is just not present.
It’s not a part of daily student life, but it could be beneficial to our entire student body if it was more often. Visiting a lecture, a salon, even a casual conversation with a professor can unbolt those often unopened doors.

Augustana has always been an institution that embraces dialogue and positive change and I hope for greater conversation concerning these issues this upcoming year. After all, I’m sure the numbers and differences will only continue to grow as the community continues to as well. I am open-minded to the potential that Augustana has, and I have no doubt it has the ability to make transitions as a whole, but so far, signs are not enough. An open and honest dialogue, one that continues, is what’s needed. In the forum, we spoke about simply preaching to the choir, those in attendance, and concerns about having little to no impact on the greater Augustana community. This choir member is attempting to bring the conversation out of the forum and onto the campus. I invite and encourage anyone from the Augustana community to write a Letter to the Editor on this issue, or in response to this opinion.

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Campus differences need more student discussion