What we lack in representation, we made up for in task forces
North Dakota State University will be given a national award in diversity this coming Friday, April 2. The award is for Excellence in a Higher Education Institute for the Promotion of Diversity (EHEIPD). Winners in the past have included schools that made real pains to enroll, include and promote diverse students and faculty.
Accepting the award in person will be President Dean Bresciani and two students of color who were asked to miss class in order to be present for the photo opportunity beside the President.
As one of the students said, “It’s incredible, I’ve never even met Bresciani before, and I’ll be there with him to accept the award. This is only my second semester on campus, but I’ve already been asked four times to be photographed on behalf of NDSU.”
The award comes as a surprise to many, as NDSU cannot be found on any national diversity ranking lists. It’s especially remarkable considering all of the recent issues this past year regarding NDSU’s handling of racism on-campus and subsequent wide-spread criticism.
In order to better understand the impact of this award on a school like NDSU, it’s important to look at some demographics. While the body of enrolled students is split roughly in half by male and female, the school does not even give an option for students to self-identify as non-binary.
Also of interest are the roughly 83% of students who self-identify as white. While this number might seem astounding, by looking at who NDSU employees in its highest positions, it’s not at all surprising. Of course, we know President Dean Bresciani is a white male, which is perhaps his best qualification for the job, as every single one of NDSU’s past 23 Presidents have also been white males.
If this doesn’t have you convinced of NDSU’s passion for diversity, look no further than those employed as deans of the eight colleges: there are six white male deans, one white male associate dean, one white female dean and one white female associate dean; that’s 100% white and roughly 80% male. It’s no wonder the school is being awarded when there is such a well-diversified hierarchy of power.
Student leadership seems to follow suit. Every undergraduate student at NDSU has likely only ever seen a white male Student Body President and looking at the candidates for next year, this legacy has no end any time soon. If you were to reach out to the Student Senator for any college or a Student Justice, they would also be white.
At the very paper I work at and you’re reading, The Spectrum, at least the last five individuals in the position of Editor-in-Chief have been white males and of the editors currently writing or photographing for this paper, all are white, including myself.
While many student organizations are actively working to educate themselves and diversify their groups, and many female, LGBTQ and disabled voices are represented, it still has struck many with awe that NDSU has received such an award when the administration seems to have done very little.
It’s unclear at this time what this award will mean for NDSU. For one, it seems likely that the administration will finally have something concrete to show students, faculty and alumni who have claimed NDSU hasn’t actually taken action or changed policy—what a relief for them.
Past that, it’s likely further budget cuts to diversity-centered programs are to come. At NDSU, racism, sexism, ableism, xenophobia, etc. are only issues to be addressed when something goes horribly—and publicly—wrong. This award will likely give administration cover for at least the next few disasters.