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October 26, 2000


Universities should reflect ethnic diversity

To the editor:

If one of the goals of higher education is to prepare young adults for what they will encounter in the world, we need universities to be diverse places. Universities need to allow for a range of opinion, thought and study. But how can there be a range of opinion, thought and study if universities are homogenous places, places that exclude those who are different from the majority, especially when that majority is lessening with every year (by 2015 it is projected that 1 in 3 Americans will be nonwhite)?

The United States is not, nor has it ever really been, a country of one ethnic group. Some may like to reminisce nostalgically of days in which everyone seemed to look, think and act very much the same, but in reality those days were dependent upon the exclusion of millions of Americans and thankfully short-lived. We cannot afford to have those days return. The fact is the U.S. with every decade becomes an increasingly vibrant mosaic of people. The emergence of the African American, Hispanic and Asian communities has greatly contributed to our country's emergence as an intellectual, economic, political and cultural powerhouse.

If U.S. universities do not reflect the ethnic diversity of the world, will students be prepared to effectively participate in the global economy? If students see the world as primarily made up of people very much like themselves, will they be prepared to encounter the burgeoning African American, Hispanic and Asian communities? And as these ethnic groups become increasingly prosperous, will such students have the cultural tools needed to interact on an individual basis with a person of a different ethnicity, especially when they look up from their desk to find they are working for that person?

In the United States diversity is not a concept, but a reality. Universities not only need to accept that fact, but also embrace it.

Technology and an international economy have made the world an increasingly diverse place. Universities need to reflect that diversity if we hope to develop students who can effectively participate in that world.

An important first step along this path is the NACAC-sponsored Pittsburgh College Fair, to be held at the David Lawrence Convention Center Feb. 22 and 23, 2001. As chairperson of this event for this and the past three years, and a participant for more than 20 years, I have seen first-hand thousands of young people of all races and ethnic backgrounds pass through the College Fair on their way to a future filled with hope and promise. Though it is still four months away, it is not too early for this year's group of high school juniors and seniors to begin thinking about the fair as their springboard toward tomorrow's success. To that end, we implore all local educators, parents, youths, leaders, clergy and any other persons who find themselves in a position to influence the development of young people to encourage them to explore the National Fair and any other avenue that will lead them toward higher education.

A diverse academic environment enhances the education of all students.

Deborah A. Rupert

Senior Associate Director

Office of Admissions and Financial Aid

and Chairperson Pittsburgh NACAC Fair

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