Michael Wade said Ferris has grown to be a more diverse campus by promoting and supporting more diversity-related initiatives.
Wade, the assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Student Services, said, “I believe the diversity-related changes at Ferris are so the campus community can have the opportunities and take advantage of opportunities to further understand the wide scope of diversity.”
There is a large range of departments, RSOs and other organizations offered on campus for students of different ethnicity, interests and religions.
Wade said the presence of diverse RSOs in and of itself neither promotes nor impedes groups getting along.
Organizations such as “Black Leaders Aspiring for Critical Knowledge” has a sole purpose to unify young black people with other cultures. In addition, members of BLACK organize and participate in activities, which promote developmental and growth opportunities, and deconstruct stigmatizing racial stereotypes, particularly as they relate to African Americans.
Chris Whitfield, a sophomore in graphic design, is part of Black Leaders Aspiring for Critical Knowledge and Black Student Union. He thinks of Ferris as a diverse campus, but that it could improve by reaching out more to minority groups that could potentially become enrolled.
“I feel that the organizations on campus were designed to bring students together, but at the same time divide. I’m not “Greek,” but I don’t see any reason why the black Greeks and Caucasian Greeks don’t have just one council,” Whitfield said.
David Pilgrim, chief diversity officer at FSU, said when he arrived at the university two decades ago, diversity and inclusion were not high priorities.
“Today, diversity is one of the core values of the university, and the number of diversity and inclusion-related programs has significantly increased,” Pilgrim said.
While Ferris has made more of an effort to become culturally diverse, racism is a societal problem; therefore, it shows up in all parts of society, from churches to nightclubs to colleges.
“It’s sad to say, but I have had many unpleasing events happen to me. I was walking home one night and a car of Caucasian students stopped and rolled down the window and yelled ‘nigger,’” Whitfield said.
Ferris is a growing campus but being culturally diverse is not just having a variety of cultures, but also respecting each other. The level of respect for and engagement with cultural activities (i.e. Black history, Asian-American, Hispanic heritage, Native American) is a concern.
Whitfield shared a recent experience that occurred during the MLK march in which a Caucasian student gave him the finger.
“I think students need to realize that race really doesn’t make a difference because at the end of the day, we are all here for one goal which is an education. It’s sad to say racism still happens,” Whitfield said.
Thinking back to why each organization was formed, students weren’t allowed to join certain groups in the past so they formed their own. Students these days aren’t willing to extend themselves outside their comfort zone; therefore, students tend to stick to RSOs that they can relate to, Whitfield said.
In order to get rid of the negative perception on diversity, having a diverse foundation of knowledge and experiences are some of the keys to success.
Pilgrim and Wade believe there is less overt racism at the university than there was when they came to Ferris. The goal of the university should not be to simply increase the diversity at the university, but to also promote inclusion and social justice.
“If you just stand in on any classroom you can tell that there are people from all walks of life,” Whitfield said. “I personally enjoy meeting new people from different backgrounds and you also gain a better understand ing on why they live their life the way they do. You should never judge a book by its cover, but only by the contents within it.”
Students should not be afraid to talk about diversity and understand change occurs through process. There are events, organizations, and services for students to gain a broader perspective, so take advantage of them.