Opinion The Counter Opinion: How the state’s diversity affects the university By The New Political Posted on September 20, 2019 11 min read 0 0 133 Graphic by Maggie Prosser In a study done by WalletHub, Ohio was ranked No. 42 in diversity out of all 50 states. The study looked at six diversity categories, including socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household, religious and political diversity. We asked our opinion writers about diversity on campus and what diversity does for a community as a whole. Contributing are Zach Richards, a sophomore education major, Maddie Kramer, a junior political science major and Charlotte Caldwell, a sophomore journalism major. Does Ohio University’s population reflect this ranking? Zach: In 2018, 78.8% of Ohio U’s students were white, while the number was 76% nationally and 81.9% for Ohio. While Ohio U is more diverse than the state as a whole, it seems reasonable that the overall whiteness of the state would affect the diversity of the university, given that most of the students are in-state. Maddie: A population Ohio U discusses a lot regarding demographics is the first-generation college student population. When thinking of diversity, this may not be the first population people generally think of. However, first-generation college students are really important to the university, and there are many programs in place on campus to encourage these students to finish with a four-year degree. While the campus may seem predominantly white, there are thriving student organizations that highlight students of other races on campus, such as the Black Student Cultural Programming Board and the International Student Union. While still being minorities, these groups have a large presence on campus. Charlotte: Ohio U’s population may not reflect racial diversity as well as other campuses, but the other categories on the list are better reflected on campus. Ohio has a sizeable first-generation population, for example. Approximately one-third of incoming first-year students are first-generation. While many might think Ohio is a mostly Republican-dominated state, Athens County always votes blue in elections, which was evident in the last governor race. However, the political diversity of Athens is not just shown in the population’s divergence from the rest of the state. Athens also has an active socialist population, along with other political parties that are different from the norm. Cities like Athens could set an example for other cities in the state and help improve on the low diversity ranking. Should more be done on campus to highlight diversity and/or encourage diverse groups to enroll at Ohio U? Zach: Even among Ohio schools, Ohio U doesn’t have a particularly diverse student body. At Ohio State University, less than 70% of the student body is white. The University of Cincinnati is nearly on par with the nation as a whole. The other categories for diversity aren’t as easy to measure, but as long as 88% of students come from a state without much diversity, the school’s not going to be that diverse. The best way to increase diversity is to invest in advertising, improve brand recognition outside of Ohio and encourage more out-of-state students to attend. Maddie: Any institution wants to say they are diverse. However, this can be a difficult thing to recruit, in addition to keeping enrollment numbers up. Ohio U’s website and social media already do a great job highlighting student organizations and the International Street Fair every year is a big success. Ohio U has a strong international student population that most students don’t seem to realize. Highlighting this form of diversity, where Ohioans are learning next to students from across the world and of different cultures, may be able to entice more international students or those seeking an interesting learning environment. Charlotte: More could be done to highlight the political diversity on campus that is there, but not always heard. In a study done last year, Democratic professors outnumbered Republican professors 10 to 1. Some professors also make questionable comments in class that suggest that everyone in the class has the same political affiliation. If respect is shown to students that follow the many political organizations on campus, then more politically diverse groups might want to enroll at Ohio U. What effect would a lack of diversity have on any community? Zach: In an environment where most students come from the same state, there is inherently going to be a diversity problem, especially when that state is fairly homogeneous. The obvious answer is that people aren’t going to be interacting with others with different viewpoints as often, and their own slice of the world will be all they’re ever familiar with. Diversity presents its own challenges, but overcoming the challenges can end up making diverse groups of people closer. Without diversity, a community can’t expect that. Maddie: A lack of diversity can definitely reflect badly on a community, or in our case, a college campus. When potential students come to tour, they hope to see people that they look like or identify with on campus. Ohio U’s website states that “everyone matters,” however it is easy to feel disenfranchised when there are no people in your population represented on campus. Ohio U was recently removed from the Campus Pride index due to changes regarding the LGBT Center on campus. If a student was looking for a campus that was friendly toward all sexual identities, Ohio U may very well drop on their list. With the problems the university is facing in enrollment trends currently, this could have a harmful effect on the Athens community. Charlotte: A lack of diversity can have harmful effects on any community, specifically a community like Ohio U where there are many students trying to find their place in the world. The homogeneity of the campus is not reflective of the world that students will encounter outside of college, and students may not be prepared for this when they move into the workforce. It has been proven that students work better in a diverse environment and helps improve their education as a whole because students with differing viewpoints and life experiences are able to create solutions. Ohio U needs to take this into consideration when they are selecting students for enrollment. Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.