"If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place." -Margaret Mead
Wittenberg's values-those principles, standards or qualities considered intrinsically desirable or worthwhile - include 11 characteristics or qualities that serve as the goals or objectives of the Wittenberg education and environment. Diversity, characterized not only as a respect for but also encouragement of cultural and intellectual diversity, is one of the 11 values.
On an individual basis, the quality and nature of our interpersonal relationships and communications are probably the key measures of respect for others. Communicating across racial and cultural lines and gender can be difficult or stressful. Here are some tips to improve communications:
- Listen. The best way to gain an understanding of others is to listen. Over time, you'll learn what motivates - and offends - the people around you. Be aware of comments that others may find insensitive or racist. If you find that a person reacts disapprovingly to what you've said, ask in private if you have inadvertently said something wrong.
- Treat each person as an individual. We are all unique. You can't assume that two people who are of the same ethnic background will share the same likes, dislikes and characteristics. Avoid using terminology that identifies people by race, gender or ethnicity, or that suggests people of a particular group are the same.
- Refuse to tolerate intolerance. Many of us feel uncomfortable when someone says something negative about another ethnicity, race or gender. But how do you speak up against it? The key is to say something - directly or indirectly - without lecturing. A comment such as "I'm not sure I understand what you are saying" may be enough to get your message across. A more direct approach would be simply to state how the remark made you feel and that you'd rather those types of comments not be made in your presence.
- Pay attention to what you say. Some words may have different connotations to different people, depending on their past experiences. Refrain from using slang and pop-culture vocabulary associated with target groups.
- Pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. These communicate a lot to others. Make sure it follows what you intend to communicate.
At Wittenberg we believe that a more diverse faculty, staff and student body help students learn by exposing them to a greater variety of experiences and points of view. Learning to live and work with people of diverse backgrounds has also become essential for success in almost any vocation a student might choose to pursue. More negatively, discriminatory behavior can expose a faculty member, staff member or student to disciplinary and even legal action. Most basically, we believe that treating every person with respect is one of our most fundamental values as human beings.
Diversity is important because it is who we are and what we value. Wittenberg enrolls more than 2,000 full-time students, representing more than 40 states, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and approximately three dozen foreign countries. The greatest concentration of students is from the northeastern and midwestern parts of the Unites States, although the student body includes students from coast to coast.
As members of this campus community, we all have a responsibility to ensure that differences - whether based on race, religion, gender, age, national origin, or sexual preference - are recognized with respect. It is useful to remind ourselves that what unites us in supporting a teaching and learning community is much more relevant than the individual differences that separate us.
Ask yourself and your colleagues, as a department, what more can you do to focus on strengthening the common values and beliefs that make us the fine institution that we are?