There was an article in The Daily Bruin (UCLA’s student newspaper) about the lack of diversity in commencement speakers:
Since the UCLA College of Letters and Science reinstated a college-wide commencement in 2002, the crop of commencement speakers has lacked the diversity that UCLA administration touts as one of the university’s top priorities.
Only four out of 13 were people of color. Seven of the past 13 speakers were white males. Only two were women and neither of those women were people of color.
While the College has picked successful and compelling speakers from a wide range of backgrounds and fields of expertise over the course of its history, the College’s recent choices point to a lack of critical thinking.
It is just as important to give students relatable and diverse role models as it is to give them speakers with impressive academic, professional and personal accomplishments.
Providing speakers with a myriad of different personal experiences – shaped by a number of factors, among them gender, race, personal history as well as field of expertise and academic accomplishment – will enable students from all walks of life to see themselves in their commencement speakers.
The committee within the College in charge of picking the commencement speaker would do well to remember this come next year.
In an email statement to The Bruin, the deans of the College said that they are “proud that half of (the) speakers come from underrepresented backgrounds and have broken barriers to reach the pinnacle of their careers.”
The deans are counting the two women who spoke at the 2012 and 2013 commencements, respectively, as a part of the “half.”
It should be noted that until two years ago, there was not a single woman featured on the list of commencement speakers at all. And even now, there is not one woman of color to be found on the list.
These numbers speak to a need for the College to more carefully examine its choices and to think more deeply about what it means to look back on a list of speakers that reflect the diversity of the student body.
How about my ideas? If I have the best ideas, and I get credit for them, should I not be placed “at the front of the pack” because I’m white? BUT!!!... I’m a woman. Does that mean I should be placed ahead, but still behind minority races, or sexuality? What order do we place people with ideas in? Are white people automatically placed “at the back of the bus” now, because of promotion of diversity? How is that fair to ME? I didn't choose to be white, or a woman, and I worked really hard at my great ideas!
Is the subtle promotion of diversity instead promoting racism of a new kind? UCLA student columnist Eitan Arom features an intriguing letter from a UC-Berkeley alumnus on the subject of a recent Daily Bruin column,
I am a 61-year-old white man, the sort that is often considered irrelevant and accused of being angered by the loss of privilege following social incursions of one or another previously oppressed groups. To allay any such considerations, I state for the record I have enough privilege to suit me, and no lack of money. I say what I say out of concern for our educational and other institutions.
I am old enough to remember when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that one day he hoped we would be judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. Our obsession with diversity has created a society in which the reverse of the reverend’s hopes have been achieved. We care less about an individual’s achievements, the new criteria being whether they are African American, Hispanic, LGBT, female, American Indian or some other protected group.
I believe this obsession with diversity is actually subtly racist. It suggests that without special treatment by the great white father, no member of the protected classes could succeed. I don’t know about others, but I would feel greatly insulted. There’s two cents’ worth from an old white male.
Dr. Andrew Kindler
UC Berkeley alumnus
When will people realize that diversity of opinions is far more important than skin pigmentation or sexual organs? Life is more than just a checkbox or making sure you have a perfect "diversity zoo", if you will, with the exact mix of races and genders in the right proportions?
Why does the Daily Bruin Editorial Board insult students' intelligence by assuming that people can only relate to others of their own pigmentation? Key exhibit from the piece below:
"Providing speakers with a myriad of different personal experiences – shaped by a number of factors, among them gender, race, personal history as well as field of expertise and academic accomplishment – will enable students from all walks of life to see themselves in their commencement speakers."
So caucasian students can't "see themselves" in African-American speakers and vice-versa? How unbelievably insulting to the intelligence of UCLA students. A logical conclusion is that the Daily Bruin editorial board would be in support of (voluntarily) segregated graduations, each with a speaker of their own race they can "see themselves in."
This PC multiculturalism has gone way too far and this editorial is a perfect example and wake-up call.
Why are we so focused on skin color and sex. What the speakers have to say is much more important.