EDITORIAL: Embracing diversity requires staff and student support

Illustration by Lily Stanicek / lily.stanicek@marquette.edu
Illustration by Lily Stanicek / [email protected]

The student body at Marquette continues to diversify with each incoming freshman class. Over a quarter of the class of 2018 is non-white, and it seems Marquette is increasingly stepping up to accommodate these student population changes. University departments, such as Campus Ministry, are visibly adapting to the evolving composition on campus.

This past June, Campus Ministry announced an open position for an Assistant Director for Multi-Cultural Student Ministry. According to the job posting, the main goal is to provide “outreach and support for students of historically underrepresented cultural and ethnic backgrounds and facilitation of intercultural faith community building.” One of the primary tasks of the job would be to connect with Hispanic students by offering bilingual retreats and liturgical services, such as Roman Catholic Mass in the St. Joan of Arc Chapel.

Since 2010, Hispanic and Latino students made up the largest percentage of minority students on campus, currently representing approximately 9 percent of the incoming freshman class. With over 86 percent of the students affiliating with some form of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Campus Ministry’s new initiative will address a sizable scope of the student body previously under-served. For many students of Hispanic origin, a bilingual Roman Catholic Mass at the Church of the Gesu, with its own cultural flair and traditions, differs significantly from a standard ceremony and the opportunity to partake in religious activities more in line with their heritage will no doubt make Campus Ministry more open and inclusive than ever before.

However, there is still progress to be made to better accommodate and welcome diversity. Combined, all other non-white and non-Hispanic minorities make up over 15 percent of the student population. Although the new initiative for a multi-cultural ministry will presumably succeed to involve and serve higher rates of Hispanic and Latino students, a truly inclusive campus will take into account all demographic groups.

Campus Ministry has the right idea. With the demographic shifts on campus, these are the kinds of initiatives we should see more of on campus. In order to foster a more welcoming and inclusive atmosphere on campus, students should be able to partake in culturally relevant activities to make Marquette feel more like home. Departments such as Campus Ministry, the Admissions Office and the Center for Intercultural Engagement are some of the most visible actors in encouraging diversity and inclusiveness, and their mission to include students of all backgrounds and beliefs should receive priority.

While these initiatives are instituted by university departments, they will falter if the student body itself does not support them. Despite the growing number of minority students on campus, inclusiveness and interaction among the student body has a significant amount of room for improvement. According to the 2014 graduating senior survey, 50 percent of students had few to no meaningful interactions with people outside of their race or ethnicity and 73 percent had few to no discussions on spirituality with members of a different faith. Diversity on campus is on the rise, but the formation of bonds between persons of different backgrounds is still lagging behind in progress.

The situation is a give-and-take. Departments and organizations on campus should work together to provide welcoming and encouraging spaces where people of all backgrounds can come together and interact, but students should also be willing to take the time to reach out, support these kinds of initiatives and learn from each other.