Turning Aspiration into a Reality

It’s week two and I’m done getting acquainted with this topic, it’s time to open up, dig deeper and develop a real relationship.  Last week I read and analyzed an article by activist Dena Simmons from the Middlebury College Magazine which helped me understand the context of the issue of intercultural relations. I recognized the Middlebury magazine as a perfect source, it provides articles related to the topic, very local stories and dilemmas  as well as a more reachable selection of possible contacts. This week I once again pulled from an article of the magazine this time written by Matt Jennings. While reading I strove to answer questions not just on the problem, but on solutions: how do we handle this? what’s being done? where do we take it from here?


How do we address this issue?


The Middlebury College has steadily become a more and more ethnically diverse environment over the past years. While this is great it does bring up more situations of tension and conversations that can be difficult but necessary for the adapting school atmosphere. The year began with “Middlebury’s new president expressing the fervent desire that the community consider diversity and inclusivity not as problems to be solved but as an everyday ethic, a way of living lives…” The college now is addressing how to turn that aspiration into a reality and many influential questions are being asked: “So how does campus culture change to reflect a pluralism in the student body? Is it a matter of simple assimilation and everybody becomes part of the same? Or is it an acceptance of difference and respect for difference, where one can have an affinity group and be with one’s own, but also move beyond that and be accepted by all?” One student of color on campus said that during this process of change they “worry that too often experiences are becoming generalized, that people are being put into categories “all of you’ or ‘all of us.’… One of the things I struggle with is how to express solidarity with a group of people, my people, while still expressing myself as an individual. Throughout the article and the student interviews within it there was a recurring theme: excitement for a positive change, but at the same time hesitation. Hesitation due to recognizing that this is a very fragile issue. It is very possible that in an attempt to make students feel safe and unoffended institutions run the risk of drawing the lines between ethnicities even deeper, of creating an impermeable border between peoples. The current plan is that”If the college embraced a really deep, committed understanding of inclusivity it could distinguish itself from its peers. Inclusivity is the new sustainability. Let’s employ forward thinking policies and practices around inclusivity and lead by example.” However, in their interviews some stated that they “worry that there’s no room to disagree about how to set that example, and that rhetoric on campus has quickly moved into a binary “us vs. them” construct.” Frequently when dealing with this problem the focus is not to bring people together, but instead to insure that no one is ever offended; a change of language instead of a change of attitude. “Free speech is not the opposite of inclusivity; the very way we create a more inclusive community is by exercising free speech and continuing to create understanding even in the midst of tension filled conversations…”

This article really helped me recognize my long term goals for this project. What I hope to achieve is a time when we can all recognize each other, not by labels, belonging to this group or that, but as people, people with different, experiences, views and perspectives but fellow people nonetheless. We can all learn and grow together and this comes with transcending racial and cultural barriers and uniting in our commonalities as well as our differences.




Kati Tolgyesi

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