At first glance, the variety of ethnic backgrounds at Stony Brook University makes it seem like a diverse school, but I doubt if the students at SBU are actually mixing with one another.
When I was deciding what colleges to apply to last year, diversity was an important factor. Being both Mexican and African American, I wanted to be around a wide range of people — people who are all different — which was one reason I chose to come to Stony Brook.
In 2016, Best Colleges called Stony Brook the seventh most diverse campus in the United States based on data from the U.S. Department of Education. The ethnic diversity of undergraduate students can roughly be broken down to 35 percent white, 24 percent Asian, 12 percent Hispanic and 7 percent black. Although this data shows that Stony Brook University has a high rate of ethnic diversity, that doesn’t mean these different ethnicities all interact with one other.
College should be full of meaningful interactions between people from various backgrounds, with different scars and ways of looking at the world. From these meaningful interactions, students can expand their knowledge base, promote creative thinking and develop socially. When schools talk about promoting diversity, they should be looking to promote cross-cultural interaction instead of just hoarding different groups of people.
In a New York Times article called “The Lie About College Diversity,” columnist Frank Bruni shares his opinion on college diversity and how he believes colleges should push interaction. The article speaks about “affinity groups,” or groups formed around a shared interest, which is what I gravitate toward.
Growing up, I have usually preferred to stay in my comfort zone, but have tried to challenge myself as much as possible. I feel that today students don’t step outside of their comfort zones. Instead, they stick to “similar backgrounds” and “overlapping hobbies” like Bruni noted in his column.
Stony Brook University is home to 353 clubs and organizations, of which 52 are cultural groups. I’ve noticed that these cultural groups often tend to interact with other groups of similar culture, instead of branching out. The Caribbean Student Organization (CSO), whose main goal is to foster unity among Caribbean students and to spread the culture across the Stony Brook campus through events, programs and general body meetings, and the Japanese Student Organization (JSO), whose main goal is to build a strong community of Japanese students and students interested in Japanese culture, are examples of large cultural groups who unite as one, but don’t seem to be uniting all together to share their different cultures.
A highlight of Homecoming 2018 at Stony Brook University was the tailgate. While many different organizations and cultural groups were present, there were many divisions. “The white organizations were definitely not near the areas where people of colored organizations were,” Karen Ruballos, a freshman psychology major, said. “I would have definitely liked it if everyone was mixed together rather than being separated as I love meeting those who have different backgrounds than mine,” Ruballos said.
This division doesn’t allow an opportunity for students to mix and mingle.
Since college is full of students from various places around the world, I believe we should take the opportunity to learn about the different cultures and events that people have experienced. A point Bruni makes is, “A given college may be a heterogeneous archipelago. But most of its students spend the bulk of their time on one of many homogenous islands,” which is saying that colleges may be diverse but students still stick together in groups of people with shared culture.
“I feel like Stony Brook University is definitely diverse, but I haven’t gained a better understanding of any other culture since I got here,” Ryan Korman, a freshman geology major, said. He feels that events
Diversity doesn’t simply occur when students of different backgrounds attend the same college; it’s a gradual process that involves personal interactions between all students. The human way is clannish and tribal, but humans should break these barriers and not only stick to one group. Bruni wrote that “We, [as students], should take the advantage of living in very close proximity to people who would not normally be together.”