What's diversity?

Harford County editorial


So who gets to decide what constitutes cultural diversity?

It's a question worth asking in light of the recent discussion among members of the Harford Community College Board of Trustees.

To comply with legislation that was approved two years ago, the college devised a plan for making sure it promotes cultural diversity. In other words, the school needs to find a way to make sure the student body reflects the community the college serves, presumably without compromising on academic standards.

The college approved such a plan, though it remains to be seen if it — or any such plan — will achieve anything. Heck, as Douglas Wright of the board of trustees pointed out, it was unclear at best whether the demographics being used to judge the college were reflective of a national average, or of the county the college was established to serve.

And even if the college is off the mark in certain areas, does that mean something is askew? After all, it wouldn't be unrealistic to expect a community college in Lancaster, Pa., to have a smaller percentage of Amish students than are in the county as a whole.

And what constitutes a cultural difference? Two second-generation millionaires who are of different racial backgrounds may well have more in common with each other than with others of similar biology.

The real tragedy of the situation is that our society as a whole has a history wherein certain cultural elements are singled out for unfair treatment. To our credit, we, as a society, enact laws in an effort to remedy the situation. Unfortunately, those laws sometimes do as much to highlight our differences in a negative way as they do to right a wrong.

Possibly the day will come when such things won't matter. Until then, we'll be stuck with the imperfect absurdity of appointing committees to decide if our institutions are diverse enough.

If only we could appoint such committees for the more noble purpose of showing how much we all have in common.

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