Diversity and Divide

art by Margarita Krylov

“Diversity and inclusion are central to the educational mission of Tufts University.” Statistically, that may be true. Socially, it is not.

We may have a diverse campus, but it is not an interconnected one, and I feel that admitting increased numbers of minorities and international students can only help so much.

Take one look around Dewick dining hall, the tables at Tisch, or even the packs of students walking around the quad, and you’ll see what I mean. To be blunt, it reminds me of an ethnic version of Mean Girls. Students predominantly spend time with those who share a common ethnic and cultural background. In Latin Way, there is even a tower colloquially known as the “Chinese” tower.

I won’t pretend that there are not exceptions to this behavior—several students of mixed ethnicities hang out together, linked by common interests, or simply a conscious choice to transcend self-segregation. But I’ve found that at Tufts, this is not the norm; it’s the exception. Social psychologists may call this kind of behavior implicit egotism, the natural tendency to gravitate toward the similar and the familiar. And I’m sure some of it may be explained by psychology. But I believe that the heart of the problem lies in our approach to diversity here at Tufts.

When I arrived at Tufts my freshman year, I was immediately bombarded with emails from the campus’s cultural centers: Africana, Asian-American, International, Latino. The students in these groups are immediately immersed into a fantastic cultural experience, through which they meet ethnically similar students and connect through common heritage. As enlightening as this might be, I feel it’s also extremely limiting.

As a person of minority status on this campus, I avoid going to any event sponsored by a cultural center or ethnically orientated group. Simply put, I’ve found that I gain a more diverse and overall complete college experience by avoiding them altogether. I feel like these ethnic-specific environments would too narrowly define and categorize me based on my background, hindering my exposure to Tuft’s eclectic and student body.

Yes, cultural centers accept those of all races and invite non-ethnic members to attend their events. But students don’t commonly accept the invite. I attended a grand total of one “cultural” event my freshman year at Tufts—the ice cream social at the Asian-American house. I dragged some of my friends from my dorm along who were not Asian and, suffice to say, they immediately felt uncomfortable and out of place. Nobody was outwardly rude to them—in fact, they were perfectly pleasant—but it was as if they had broken a social norm; they just didn’t belong.

Self-segregation continues as upperclassmen decide to live in La Casa or the Africana Center or any other ethnic or racially based house, where they interact strictly with others of their background. At least as a freshman, you at least have the opportunity to see and co-mingle with other ethnicities due to racially diverse dorms and the random roommate process. Conversely, upperclassmen living in ethnic houses don’t have to interact with other ethnicities in a social setting if they choose not to.

These homes essentially breed self-segregation. How many times have we been told that we grow the most at college outside the classroom? By living with our own race or ethnicity, and closing ourselves off entirely from students of other races, I feel like we’re stunting our growth and not getting the most out of what Tufts has to offer.

The one special-interest home on campus that I believe tries to transcend this issue is the International House. Home to 18 students from different countries, including the US, the residents of the I-House strengthen intercultural ties.

I do not think the failure to integrate students of various races is a situation unique to Tufts. However, I do feel that this should be a non-issue at Tufts, where diversity is essentially part of the administration’s creed.

So, what can we do to fix this?First, we have to acknowledge as a student body that the current situation needs to be fixed. The most ethnically mixed place at Tufts should not be at a frat basement during a party or the  18 students that live in the I-House. There should be no more students walking around April Open House wearing t-shirts that read, “Ask me what it is like to be a black student here at Tufts.” The Tufts experience should not be different because of the color of your skin.

I also feel that we need to genuinely make an effort to make a truly diverse group of friends, which will allow us to be truly interconnected as a student body. The cultural centers should make more of an effort to reach out to the entire Tufts community and educate all students about their respective cultures—instead of just focusing on providing an outlet for their own.

Diversity should be more than a statistic, but a  genuine embodiment of Tufts culture.

13 Replies to “Diversity and Divide”

    1. That too! Gospel Choir is probably the most diverse group you’ll ever see on campus. :) And it’s lots of fun. Nice way to settle down on a Friday.

  1. Dear Misha–

    Thank you for writing that article. I think you tried to tackle an issue at Tufts that has sadly passed onto your generation.

    I agreed with some of what you said. For one, Tufts prides itself on diversity, and as such, should have a more diverse [in terms of social interactions] school, yet it does not, not when compared to other universities. I think this is due to many factors, minority houses included, but your solution to the problem is very radical, and in essence, an attempt to push the horse before the buggy.

    I’m not sure of your year, but I’m 90% positive you’re either a freshman or a sophomore. I only point this out to address the optimism your article has. It is good to be optimistic but it also pays to be realistic.

    The diversity houses on campus were put there, not because minority students wanted to self-segregate, but because they were necessary. These houses are places of history, where our predecessors were accepted in times when the environment was substantially hostile. Tufts has its minority-sponsored events, for its minority students and whoever wants to accompany them, but these events are NOT separate from the Incoming Freshman Mixer, nor are they separate from anything that is general to Tufts.

    What is the issue with having these houses? Because they cater to one group, does that automatically qualify for their removal? Should Tufts then remove all of its minority programs, including the Christian/Jewish/Muslim associations? Because essentially, that is your argument. If as you’re implying, these houses are converted into other things, then you would have to go through the ranks of specialty groups and cease funding to all. Why? Because they harbor self-segregation. People do not segregate just along race lines.

    I think a more appropriate response wouldn’t be the bulldozer way (your way), but to simply have more freshman mixers before the Minority Groups take the students away for their retreats. Tufts prides itself on diversity after all, so Tufts is not trying to keep its diverse students from meeting, but to have them meet and interact with everyone.

    I believe more can be and probably is being done by the university to counteract this problem, but know that this issue has existed for a long time, and there have been solutions, some working and others failing, put forth to counter it.

    Again, very brave of you to write that article, but shutting down the minority houses is NOT the solution. Some people find their niche without these houses, but for others, it is all they have, and it’s not for lack of trying. You have to remember that not all of the minority students on campus will have your experience, just as you won’t have theirs.

  2. I strongly agree with the above comment. You need to do your research and find out what these houses were actually founded on before you make split judgements. Also when you said that the students that live in specialty houses “interact strictly with others of their background”, you should have reconsidered your word choice. This just comes to show that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about because I personally have friends who hang out with very diverse groups that live in the said specialty houses. And people just dont chose to live in them because they only want to be around blacks, Asians, or Hispanic. Have you considered that there are no RAs, the houses are pretty quiet, the rooms are big etc. So please do not blame these houses for the lack of intercultural interaction at Tufts because that is not the message they send out and neither is that their goal.

  3. I have never heard of a Latin Way Tower “known colloquially as the ‘Chinese Tower.'” Are you referring to the Latin Way suite which the university has established as the Chinese Language House?
    http://ase.tufts.edu/reslife/housing/special.asp#chinese

    Do you actually know the races of the students who live in culture houses? Are they all exclusively of one race or ethnic background? Have you checked with the advisers of any of these houses? For example, are you implying that no non-Latino students have ever lived in La Casa, and that those who live there hang out exclusively with other Latino students?

    You said that, “Cultural centers accept those of all races and invite non-ethnic members to attend their events.” What do you mean by “non-ethnic members?” Are you implying that there are students on campus who do not have any sort of ethnic background?

    You claim that groups of certain races self-segregate, such as Latinos who decide to live in La Casa or tables of students who sit exclusively with members of their own race in the dining halls. Have you ever considered the number of tables made up of only white students? Do you think that said white students are self-segregating as well by only sitting with other white students?

    I implore you to check the validity of your examples before arguing such a provocative claim about the racial climate of our campus.

  4. Ms. Patel,

    In your article you said the following:

    “I attended a grand total of one ‘cultural’ event my freshman year at Tufts—the ice cream social at the Asian-American house. I dragged some of my friends from my dorm along who were not Asian and, suffice to say, they immediately felt uncomfortable and out of place. Nobody was outwardly rude to them—in fact, they were perfectly pleasant—but it was as if they had broken a social norm; they just didn’t belong.”

    If your friends felt as if “they just didn’t belong” by merely attending an event at the Asian-American house for a few minutes; How do you think students of certain backgrounds feel everyday on a predominantly white campus? I assure you, feeling like you don’t belong 24/7 is much worse than feeling like you don’t belong for the few minutes your friends did when they attended the Asian-American house. I see the culture houses as a way for some students to feel “like they do belong,” even if for a few hours, as they interact with people INTERESTED in/coming from the culture they associate with. (I say “interested in” because I know for a fact that not every member of both the Japanese Culture House and the Latino Culture House was born into/or has traceable blood-ties to those respective cultures; they just wanted to learn more about it.) You are merely a recent sophomore and have much to learn. Your bravery in writing on an issue that concerned you despite the potential for backlash is admirable. The ignorance you displayed in this article, that however, is both disappointing and concerning.

  5. I don’t see anywhere in the article saying these centers or houses need to be shut-down. What I see is that these centers that are designed to support Tufts’ mission of diversity fail to do such. They do a great job of providing a comfort network for people that belong to various theo-socio-ethno-racial groups. But there is only limited intermingling between the various groups.

    Whether you’re talking about the Latino Center, J House, Senate, Sig Ep, or the Robotics club, the truth of the matter is that people at Tufts are uncomfortable, or just would not think of, approaching these groups if they are not a part of them. This, in my opinion, is the issue the article is trying to bring to light.

    No center should be closed, no house should be shut-down. Rather, the University has to figure out how to bridge these groups while simultaneously maintaining the groups as support networks. We certainly pay them enough to be able to figure it out…

    Oh, and another thing. People are very attached to the communities/clubs they are a part of. But people also get very defensive when talking about their communities (see the above comments, where people refute claims that were not made). Perhaps your community might have to sacrifice something for the community at tufts as a whole to be stronger? And I’m not just talking about cultural communities…I’m talking about all of them.

  6. Hey Misha,

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article. I say that because I believe that issues of race and ethnicity at Tufts should be openly discussed so I applaud you for providing the platform for this discussion.

    With that being said, I completely disagree with most, if not all you have said in this article. My views are as follows:

    1. The reason why minorities stick together is because they are MINORITIES (there aren’t many of them). Therefore, their culture, ethnic background, racial experience etc. is not dominant and they must make an effort if they want their culture, background, or racial experience to be acknowledged. Therefore, minorities often stick together in groups to gain acknowledgment from each other and the community around them.

    2. Minority students don’t actively decided to not hang out with other groups. It happens subconciously, within the cultural context established by the institution.

    3. If people feel uncomfortable in an environment of people who are not their same ethnic background, that goes to show how much they are in the dominant group. Maybe this article should encourage students who are not minorities at Tufts to expose themselves to other cultures more? wouldn’t that help solve the problem of segregation as well?

    4. One place where I do agree with you! …I think accepting more students from ethnically diverse backgrounds IS NOT the solution. You are right. Rather, I think Tufts as an institution, if they really want to embrace diversity, needs to establish an environment where different ethnic backgrounds are included in the education, culture and overall representation of this school.

    As a minority, I feel that Tufts is kind of a scam. They gave me the impression that my culture would be acknowledged and appreciated here and it is not. They gave me the impression that I would be exposed to a “global perspective”, which includes a diverse set of ethnic, and racial backgrounds and beliefs, and instead I’ve been immersed in the same dominant culture I’ve known all my life. Please don’t blame me for hanging out with people that make me feel like my culture and experience is of value. I don’t know how I would make it through Tufts without the cultural center that I go to, and without the group of friends who share a similar experience. This is not to say that I don’t value and appreciate the people I hang out with who are not share my ethnic background. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to get to know all of the individuals I’ve gotten to know at Tufts, and appreciate them equally.

    In conclusion, I don’t blame the cultural centers, I don’t blame students in the majority or the minority at Tufts. I blame the institution that continues to paint the picture of a “global perspective” education and a diverse college experience. Honestly Misha, I think de-segregation would work perfectly in a system that embraces and reflects all members of its community. We both know now, that community just isn’t Tufts.

  7. …you say on your Twitter you’re an aspiring journalist.
    You can’t POSSIBLY be serious.
    Right?? You’re joking, right???
    Even a student in English 1 knows to fact-check (Chinese Language House, Spanish Language House, Capen House, Start HOuse, etc).

    I really hope you don’t believe any of what you said. If so, then…well, you’re a fucking idiot.

  8. I participated in the April Open House demonstration. If you remember (which you don’t obvi), the shirts read:

    ASK ME ABOUT WHITE PRIVILEGE AT TUFTS

    and

    ASK ME ABOUT BEING A STUDENT OF COLOR AT TUFTS.

    There were just as many students of color (black, asian, latino, native american, european, etc) there as there were whites.

    So, I second everyone else: get your facts straight before you open your mouth or set pen to paper or submit an opinion piece to a publication.

    Food for thought.

  9. Dear Misha Patel,

    You are not white. Get it through your head.

    Sincerely,

    Concerned student

    P.S. There were 6 white students in Capen today.

  10. Dear Misha,

    After reading your article a lot of questions popped into my head, such as: what is this girl talking about? How can she write an article about how the centers are self-segregating when she just stated that she does her best to avoid them? How would you know what they are about if you haven’t given them a chance? (And no, going to ONE ice cream social at the Asian American center and having your friends feel uncomfortable is not considered as giving the centers a chance). Why does she keep contradicting herself line after line?
    As a person who appreciates being aware of different points of view, I respect your opinion. But, I just wish your claims in this article weren’t so ignorant. I agree with you when you say that diversity is an issue at Tufts. But I STRONGLY disagree with how you make it seem as though the minorities are at fault. How is it that it is the responsibility of those in a minority group to branch out and try to create diversity at Tufts, but the majority is not responsible for anything? Can you see how absurd that is? I pray that you do, otherwise it will be confirmed that something is off in that brain of yours.
    Let’s talk about your experience at the Asian American center, shall we? You claim that when you enter the center your friends “immediately felt uncomfortable and out of place. Nobody was outwardly rude to them—in fact, they were perfectly pleasant—but it was as if they had broken a social norm; they just didn’t belong”. Who said they didn’t belong? Did anyone in the center say it? I highly doubt that, which means that your friends simply ASSUMED they were not welcomed so they felt uncomfortable. I don’t see how the center is at fault here. Furthermore, you claim that houses like La Casa and the Africana Center “breed self-segregation”. What about houses where people of majority status choose to live together. Is that not self-segregation also? How come you choose to mention the former places but you neglect to mention the dozens of houses on campus where only people of the dominant group reside? What about frat houses? Have you noticed how the residents of many of them are of the same race? Does that not breed self-segregation? Let’s go back to your comment about Dewick and how “ethnic people” choose to sit together. Diversity and segregation are NOT only about race. So if people of minority status sitting together depict self-segregation, what does that say about the football players sitting together? Or what about the members of the track team sitting together? Is that not self-segregation? If your answer to that is no, then your ignorance goes beyond belief.
    Misha, do you know the definition of diversity? In case you don’t, here it is: a range of different things. You state that the I-House is diverse because it is the “home of 18 students from different countries”. Not that you would notice since you don’t care to become informed when it comes to the other centers, but both La Casa and the Africana Center are the home of students from DIFFERENT countries as well – isn’t that a range of different things A.K.A diverse? Maybe you’re not aware of this but even though certain countries speak the same language, it does not mean that they have the same culture; therefore, when someone from Mexico decides to live with someone from Puerto Rico they are being exposed to DIFFERENT things. Likewise, two people of different African countries living together will be experiencing a new culture – they are being diverse.
    Two more things: “The most ethnically mixed place at Tufts should not be at a frat basement during a party”. Sweetie, I don’t know what frats you go to but when has the basement of a frat house been ethnically mixed? Last but not least, regarding the APRIL Open House, the shirts read: “ask me what it is like to be a student of color”, NOT “Ask me what it is like to be a black student here at Tufts”. Also, you forgot to mention the ones that read: “Ask me about white privilege” worn by white students at Tufts.
    Hun, I’d recommend you to think before you talk…or write in this case. Have a great life.

  11. Dear Misha,

    I am writing to you not to make you feel dumb, but to help you understand why your arguments are false. I may have an attitude at times, but it is only because many things in this article made me upset. Before you continue reading, please understand that students of color are the same as white students. We are all taking classes and trying to succeed in the world. We have emotions and each person has a different personality and interest. Despite certain beliefs, we are very approachable, so do not be afraid to approach us for anything.

    Now, firstly, I would like to say that I completely agree with everything Shirley has to say above. Your arguments are based on false information. Also, why should the minority students have to assimilate into the Tufts culture, which I would like to state is WHITE. Both minorities and white students should work together to provide a more diverse community.

    You mention how you avoid going to any events sponsored by the culture house, yet you are complaining about a lack of diversity on campus. The culture houses reach out to everyone and if others think like you and do not attend these events, how is the campus ever going to be diverse? Why should we keep reaching out if you will not even attend? AND if you do not want to go to any cultural events, why are you complaining about diversity? Your circle of friends is WHITE and you do not do anything involving students of color. You mentioned and I quote ” Simply put, I’ve found that I gain a more diverse and overall complete college experience by avoiding them altogether.”… if your experience is so diverse without you going to the culture houses, WHY ARE YOU COMPLAINING? Why do you want the campus to be so diverse if you don’t care to learn about and participate in cultural things? I really just want to know: WHAT IS THE POINT OF YOUR ARGUMENT? Are you lacking friends of color (which honestly is not Tufts fault)? Or are you mad that students of color are embracing their identity? Like seriously, why do you want a more diverse campus if you are happy?

    Another thing, your white friends were uncomfortable at the Asian-American Center when everyone was so friendly to them. Do you not think that maybe your friends have a personal problem hanging around Asian students? And have you considered how minorities feel EVERYDAY at Tufts when going to class, the dining hall, or just simply being at Tufts? Do their feelings not matter? It’s no one’s fault that your friends are uncomfortable.

    Also, you lied when you said that you were “immediately bombarded with emails from the campus’s cultural centers: Africana, Asian-American, International, Latino”. I can assure you that you were NOT bombarded with emails from the Latino and Africana center unless you had SELF-IDENTIFIED yourself as Black and Latina on your application. So please correct yourself.

    Misha, why is it so wrong for a group of black kids to sit together, but right for a group of white kids to sit together? You are holding double standards. Do you consider your group of friends diverse? I see you in Dewick sitting at a table full of white students…you’re the only colored person there. Does that make it diverse, Misha? Do you see any minority students complaining about how white kids sit together? And why are you only basing it on the dining halls? Have you ever considered students interactions outside the dining halls? What about classes: do all minorities take the same classes and not interact with white students? What about the dorms: do all minorities live in the same dorms/houses and not interact with white students? What about activities: do all minorities join all the same activities and not interact with white students? Answer: NO, NO, NO. I witness students of different backgrounds interacting with one another. Maybe lunch or dinner time is the only time they can sit with students from similar backgrounds and release some stress from the day. Or discuss things they miss about home. Or talk about financial issues. I may eat most of the times with people of color, but I can assure you, outside the dining hall, I am interacting with students of all backgrounds, WHITE, BLACK, LATINO, and ASIANS.

    Oh, and I would like to make a note about your comment that Tufts is an “ethnic version of Mean Girls”? THAT MAKES NO SENSE AT ALL. In the movie, the school was already “segregated”: at lunch time, there was a table for jocks, populars, losers, goths, blacks, etc… You would have sounded a bit more intelligent if you had just said “Tufts is a version of Mean Girls”.

    Finally, just because we look alike, it does not mean we are alike.

    Maybe you should take the first step at improving diversity on campus by educating yourself and your friends since you sound so concerned and passionate.

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