Council looks at diversity deficit

GROVE CITY, Pa – The new Grove City College President’s Council had its first meeting before students arrived in August. 

Convening monthly, council members are working towards creating change for promoting a diverse community. 

The purpose of the council is to “help guide recommendations in the development of strategic initiatives for the recruitment and retention of students, the hiring of new employees and broadening perspectives among all members of the community,” according to a press release by the college. 

“In recruiting students and searching for the best employment candidates, it’s important that we understand what obstacles may be impeding our success with regard to racial and ethnic diversity. I formed the advisory council to help the college address this question in particular,” President Paul J. McNulty ’80 said.

The council is composed of 11 members, including faculty and two Grove City students, who were selected based on their relevant experience. 

According to Justin Jose, a member of the council and Director of Multicultural Education & Initiatives, the first meeting was solely an introductory meeting and while there are no concrete initiatives, council members have presented ideas. 

The council purposes to increase the diversity of Grove City’s student body.  According to administration’s official demographic report, under nine percent of the student population is from a diverse background.  This ranks Grove City at 2,173 out of 2,718 in ethnic diversity nationwide with a student body composition that is below the national average.

The council is also considering the role that faculty with more diverse backgrounds, including experience with curriculum focused on other cultures, might have in meeting the college’s goals, Jose said.

Although trying to create a more diverse student body is good, Jose also emphasizes that the school must first focus on the current minority population on campus now.   “The initial emphasis of the meeting was ‘how do we bring more ethnic diversity on campus through student, faculty and staff?’” Jose said.  “And those are great, but we need to figure out how to support our minority students who are already here.” 

According to sophomore Tanohah Leon, a student member on the Diversity Council, “we must create space on campus for higher recruitment before focusing on recruitment.”

A good way to create that culture, according to Leon, is to have safe places on campus for minority students to be able to talk about their experiences.  “I think a lot of people are unaware of the challenges that students of minority backgrounds go through,” Leon says.

“I’m really excited to see what the Council is going to do and have hope that they will be successful,” Leon said.  

Elsie Becker, president of Student for Ethnic Awareness and Diversity said she believes the council is “long overdue” and diversity helps the college better reflect the kingdom of God.

“The Grove City bubble is 92 percent white, but the world isn’t,” Becker says.  “As Christians, we need to be prepared for the world.”  

As the purpose of the Council states, the school wants to broaden the perspectives of students to other cultures so that they can be better prepared to enter the world, especially as Christians sharing the Gospel.

“Alum have mentioned that when they left Grove City and went into diverse environments, they were not ready for those hard conversations,” Jose said. “With that, we want to support our minority students and our majority students by helping them have a better Christian perspective of how to think of this conversation.” 

The Multicultural Education Department earlier this month hosted a Grove City forum where students could freely share their experiences about the racial justice protest movement that exploded this summer after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  About 40 – 50 students and faculty members attended.

Professor Cedric Lewis, a member of the council, was among the speakers.  “Don’t be afraid to talk to each other,” he encouraged the student body.  “The love of God is the reason we are all here.  And sharing it with one another is what we must do.  Don’t be afraid to tell your truth.” 

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