Some Wheaton students have posed these questions to other Wheaton students, as well as to OMD staff. We've answered these questions here, so that you can feel equipped to talk with others about these issues.
These questions speak to the topic of diversity on a more general level. If you have questions that are not posed here, the Office of Multicultural Development welcomes you to e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation about adding them to this list.
Q. Why do all the African American, or Asian American, or Latino students sit together in the dining hall?
A. It is a misnomer to assume that "all" students of one ethnicity or another sit together. However, there needs to be an appreciation of the fact that at times students from similar backgrounds may want to gather and share experiences/ideas with those whose cultural experience is similar. We recommend that students challenge their own perceptions. The next time you are in the dining hall, look carefully to observe if students are sitting together only with peers with similar ethnicities. If you do see a group of students with similar ethnicities sitting together, consider sitting down and getting to know your siblings in Christ who may have a different cultural perspective.
Q. In what ways do cultural differences influence the student population and is it a social issue worth talking about?
A. It is common for students to come to Wheaton believing that the Civil Rights Movement solved all the race-related problems in the United States. Clearly the impact of the Civil Rights Movement was the empowering of many people in the US (a great deal of the legislation passed during the time benefited white women) yet as a nation we continue to wrestle with perceptions and assumptions predicated on the hue of one’s skin, one’s accent, the shape of one’s eyes, or one’s name. Laws have helped to mitigate against the negative impact of the most heinous forms of discrimination over the years. However, the personal covert issues regarding assumptions based on racial/ethnic identity and actions based on those assumptions continue to occur. Ultimately we are addressing an issue of sinful actions and our sin nature; sin is not so easily "solved" but rather continually presented to the Lord, asking for His redemption.
Q. What role does affirmative action play in Wheaton's ability to attract and foster a diverse community?
A. One of the greatest misnomers is that "Affirmative Action" means reaching racial/ethnic quotas through the lowering of standards. Wheaton has a growing population of students of color who are confident that the Lord has led them here. The qualifications of these students would certainly afford them financial assistance at other schools in amounts up to full tuition, room and board plus books. In the recent past Wheaton has lost prospective students of color to institutions such as Duke, Washington University, Oberlin, and the University of Chicago. The challenge is that students of color who enter on par with campus expectations - as all our students of color do - are sometimes made to feel that their enrollment is strictly based on their racial/ethnic identity and not on their academic, leadership and other abilities as well as their Christian faith commitment. Wheaton is actively recruiting students of color in an effort to foster relationships with communities that have previously been unreached by the College. These intentional recruitment efforts have yielded growth at the College in recent years. The Admissions Office is intent on recruiting women and men who love Jesus, are academically gifted, and will contribute to the campus community.
Q. What are some healthy ways to discuss cultural differences?
A. Discussing race and ethnicity is not easy. Anglos sometimes assume that the issue of diversity has been given too much attention at Wheaton College and that we can move on to other concerns. Racism is a form of sin and has been a part of our culture long before any of us were present. Fatigue in response to racial and ethnic conversations can come from an unwillingness to accept that there are issues that need to be addressed in our own lives. At times we all struggle to learn about new areas of growth, especially if we do not initially recognize them. The dynamics of living and learning in community are complex. But when one member of the body suffers, we all suffer. Our prayer is that the Lord will help all of us at Wheaton College to address the ways our racial and ethnic identities separate us as a united people of God in Christ Jesus.