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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Virtues of a diverse campus

Published: March 21, 2014
Section: Opinions

Diversity is a unique word. It is extremely versatile and is often used in many different contexts. At the core, diversity literally means “having variety,” or “range.” Taken at face value, then, one would assume that diversity can be attributed to almost anything, whether it is a group of people or a collection of cars. Deeper within the meaning, however, the word takes on more importance. It is easy to spot diversity or to strive toward it, but it is harder to realize where it leads you. Realizing the essence of diversity should inform you about something rather than just telling you that particular thing is different. When diversity leads you past something, it has accomplished its goal.

It is not news that Brandeis is teeming with diversity. Diversity, as well as a plethora of other qualities, is what makes everyone at this school special. The diversity exhibited here, however, is not because people have different socioeconomic backgrounds, religion or culture, but because they have individual traits and perspectives. These traits, such as passions and interests, have been honed for years and viewpoints have developed in light of them. One’s background and exposure definitely influences these perspectives and interests, but they differ from individual to individual. It is easy to conflate diversity with religion or culture, but the crux of diversity transcends these barriers and only serves to sharpen individuality.

One of the ways in which diversity is exhibited here is through the array of opinions people have about issues they hold dear. Whether they pertain to social justice, the environment or the arts, everyone has a voice. One of the caveats that often comes with diversity, however, is trying to polarize other’s viewpoints. Opinions are not actually “diverse” when they are simply completely different from someone else’s opinion on the matter. Having a diverse opinion means that you have taken into account the other side and evaluated it for yourself. It is for the individual to decide whether they concur or disagree with a certain view.

During the Israeli-Apartheid week, for instance, there were many polarized opinions despite that the issue is not clear-cut. There are perspectives to be considered from a broad spectrum, and it is crucial not to label any one idea as completely one-sided. When pointing out this flaw, diversity loses its importance as it just serves to divide the populace and not assist in evolving its thinking. When debating about such complex political or global matters, it is always important to take into account how opinions are formed. People’s backgrounds differ and their ideas have been influenced in several ways. It is not wrong for ideas to mesh and then to reach a common solution. As long as that solution serves the common good or leads to something better, it doesn’t matter how it conflicts from another point of view.

Diversity isn’t solely evidenced through opinions, though. One of the main ways in which it is shown is through the skill sets that people possess, the skill sets that are the result of different interests sparked by one’s environment and background. When growing up in a certain culture or environment one may develop a strong penchant for music and this may lead them to pick up a violin or guitar. As they pursue these different avenues they may find they have a passion for it. The same is true of academia, the arts, books and sports. How we develop our passions and the skills that we acquire through pursuing our interests is what makes us diverse. Even if it is on a trip to a new place or through immersion in a foreign culture, a passion may be sparked.

Just immersing yourself in new cultures and traveling does not reinforce diversity, though. Taking something meaningful away from each unique experience and pursuing it is what does.

The concept of diversity is intricate. It cannot be applied to everything. For something to display diversity or for someone to have a diverse viewpoint, it has to make a statement. Sometimes, this point can be made through artistic expression or debate or even other modes of communication, but in the end it helps us evolve as people. When diversity reinforces the virtue of a collective society, only then can we fathom its true meaning.