I went to my alma mater for five years. I realized the second semester of my junior year that I was never going to finish my pre-vet degree so I had to scramble and switch from pre-vet major/french minor to french major/asian studies minor, hence that fifth year. And someday I’ll stop feeling the need to explain why it took me five years to graduate college — not cuz i’mstoopid, but cuz i’m just chemistry/biology/physics lecture stoopid.
Digression, it’s what’s for dinner.
I graduated in 1997. In 2002 I returned to my alma mater as an employee. For the six years I worked there I participated at a highly involved level on a committee that attracted, accepted, oriented, and welcomed new students to the campus. I was privy to the university’s concern that Vermont is a very homogeneous state where diversity of culture and life experience does not come naturally. Diversity became a manic mission of the administration, and all departments were called upon to integrate diversity plans into their business models. At some point some one or group came up with the idea that placing two faces together of people from different backgrounds somehow equated to an attractive physical representation for people who normally would have disregarded the school as Just Another Rich White Kid Party School.
It’s now a full 8 years since the split faces were added to the orientation print materials for first year students. And here I sit in New York City, casually checking the news of Vermont, and reading that UVM will air commercials to attract prospective students and their families on ESPNU, and felt so hopeful when I saw that “an award winning creative team” helped produce the commercials, but felt that familiar disappointment as I watched each 30-second spot show split-screened faces of what UVM thinks diversity means.
Diversity doesn’t mean trying too hard to say that the population isn’t all just rich white kids. Diversity is organic. And diversity happens because the people within the community foster acceptance in their hearts, in their lives, in their everyday actions. My friends back in Vermont who moved there from Brooklyn struggle daily with Vermont’s passive-aggressive intolerance of non-natives. The state’s unofficial motto truly is “welcome to Vermont, now go home”. And it was always rumored that if you live in Vermont ALLLLL your life except you leave for even a little tiny bit (which I did for 6 months when I was 10, turning 11) that you become a Flatlander, no longer accepted as a Vermonter.
Dude. That’s just fucked up. Why WOULD people from other cultures, backgrounds, ways of thinking, ways of living even WANT to live there?
I think a better ad campaign would be photos and videos of students interacting, working together, doing together, producing together, having a campfire sing-along on the shore of Lake Champlain or a snowball fight on the green, or hanging out previewing a student-made film in the chapel, NOT two students separated in their filming who are glommed together through (not actually so) creative editing. Showing students working, playing, living harmoniously together is what fosters diversity.
And… whoever edited the faces together should be fired, because everyone looks scary together.
My 2 cents. I welcome your thoughts on the matter.
PS – hi.