By Hillary Taylor
Even if this puts me in the minority, I’ll go ahead and say it: I love Furman University.
I wouldn’t say that I love everything about this university. There are still some growing edges I would love to see in terms of civil discourse and diversity. But I do love the intimate atmosphere that facilitates close, lasting relationships with professors and other students. I love the CLP talks that make you think about the world and our culture. And despite the expensive lawn care, I love the way the campus looks year-round.
However, I do have some concerns for how this school is changing, particularly regarding the student population.
It has recently come to my attention that our push for diversity is, in some ways, backfiring. As of now, Furman has the lowest retention rate it has had in a number of years (from what I’ve heard, it’s lower than 90 percent).
Within the first week, about 70 first-year-students accrued alcohol violations, more than any other class presently on campus.
Finally, this class has brought in more hate crimes than other classes, from writing racial slurs on doors to making crude remarks about salient characteristics concerning peoples’ physical appearances.
I don’t think these are the positive characteristics that Furman meant to bring when they expanded the “diversity” of the campus. The strategic plan has been set to draw “different” people to campus.
In effect, it’s attempting to draw people who can afford the Furman education in order to pay for the people who can’t afford a Furman education. I wonder, if in our quest for diversity, are we leaving out people inhabiting an economic middle ground?
In a time of great division, what we need now more than ever is a group of people on campus who aren’t just diverse, but who know how to collaborate. Without these people on our campus, we don’t have a whole lot to keep us together. Could this lack of commonality be a factor in the discord among students?
Diversity is a hard thing to create. But it’s an even harder thing to make people realize they already are diverse in some ways. I’m not claiming that we are as diverse as we need to be. I would love to see all Furman students comfortable walking in their own skin on campus, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic background, etc.
In our defense, you would be hard pressed to find so many active organizations which do celebrate diversity on other college campuses around Furman’s size. Just take our religious organizations. We have about 20 active ones. Granted, most of these are rooted in Christianity. Yet larger schools (like Auburn, for example) struggle to have even that many, including the ecumenical and interfaith groups we have here. This is just one example of existing diversity.
The way to create a diverse population is to listen to one another. Then we find out who each one of us is and what we can push ourselves to become. We do plenty of talking as a university, but listening requires more energy and empathy.