As a member of the Board of Trustees, I applaud the Etownian for its recent editorial calling on the College to take seriously its stated commitment to diversity and inclusion of all students. But I do not agree with the alarming statement that Elizabethtown College is “not ready for diversity.” I also do not accept the assertion that the administration and the Board of Trustees lack commitment to improving diversity among both the student body and faculty.
As an African American woman who is a veteran journalist, author and founder of the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg, appreciation for people of different cultures, races, abilities, backgrounds and experiences is central to my life’s work. I would not be part of an organization that did not share these values nor advocate for the disenfranchised both at home and abroad.
I certainly would not send my own son to such an institution. But Etown is at the top of my son’s college list. We expect him to be a part of Etown’s entering first-year class this fall, majoring in political science, with an international affairs minor. He also plays some mean soccer, as well as violin and piano.
In my almost two years as part of the Board of Trustees, I am convinced that the administration, faculty and staff of Elizabethtown College, as well as its board of directors, is committed to creating an atmosphere of inclusion and appreciation for differences on campus. They realize this is an essential ingredient for all students to receive a quality education that prepares them for the real world.
Diversity is really about excellence in education. No student can consider himself well-educated and competitive in today’s globalized world if he is not comfortable working and socializing with people of other races and backgrounds. Students who spend their educational careers in cultural cocoons are severely handicapped in the global marketplace, as surely as if they are unable to write a cogent paragraph or speak a clear sentence in an interview.
The Board of Trustees has intensely engaged with faculty and staff on these issues in our meetings. Trustees have thoroughly examined the school’s diversity plan and insisted on regular reports that include goals and timetables. The faculty and staff have welcomed this scrutiny and have enthusiastically responded. We were pleased to learn recently this fall’s first-year class will be among the most diverse ever, with an estimated 10 percent of students who represent cultural, racial or ethnic minorities.
We all agree that much work still remains to be done. And it is good that students at Etown care deeply about diversity in all its forms. But please be aware that you have true partners on the Board of Trustees, as well as among the faculty and staff of this great institution. Let’s work together to ensure Elizabethtown College reaches its next level of excellence.
And get ready to welcome my son on campus this fall!