Published: March 1, 2016

Bruce Benson

The Importance of Diversity 

Amid vigorous national debate about diversity on college campuses, CU has reaffirmed its commitment to provide a welcoming environment for all students.

Why a renewed push on diversity?

It’s one of our institutional values and guiding principles, and also a critical conversation happening nationally. We have made progress in recent years, but not enough. So we’re developing a plan that will build on the work we’ve done, and will also assess our current approach to ensure accountability going forward. As I often cite in speeches, the minority will become the majority in this country in 2046, and if we don’t do a good job educating all people, we will be in trouble as a nation. There’s a greater sense of urgency.

How do you define diversity?

It’s recognizing and valuing the variety inherent in people’s backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. There is strength in that variety. It has made us strong as a nation and as a university. Many think of diversity in terms of race and ethnicity, but it’s much broader than that.

Do you agree with the perception that diversity leads to special treatment for certain groups over others?

No. There is a mistaken impression that diversity is about political correctness. Wrong. It’s important that people feel welcome and valued, so part of succeeding at diversity means fostering an environment where that happens. It also means reflecting our wider society. We’re preparing graduates to go out into an increasingly complex, international and in some cases polarized country and world. We recognize that and have to prepare students accordingly.

Will it lead to any change in academic standards?

We’re not changing our high academic standards. 

What is the timeline for your new approach?

This is a marathon, not a sprint. We’re already addressing the issue and have been for some time. It can be difficult, challenging work, but we are committed to success. We are consulting many groups inside and outside the university as we develop a comprehensive plan. The work of implementing that plan and being accountable for progress will span years, not months. To be successful, we have to be in this for the long haul, and we are. It’s the right thing to do, and it makes our university stronger.

Illustration by Melinda Josie