Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Diversity at Penn

Recently, an opinion piece appeared in the Daily Pennsylvanian about the presidential debates that centered around diversity. Read it here. Here's our response, also published in the DP.

Ashwin Shandilya wrote about how minorities at Penn are being “overzealous about diversity.” He asks if there was a recent wave of discrimination that he had missed.

To answer his question, no, he did not miss a recent wave of discrimination. We are used to living a life where everyone appears satisfied, but remember there exists an American tradition of systematic marginalization. It’s crucial to be aware of the racial disparities on this campus.

To us, diversity is not a nebulous ideal that we use to legitimize our interests. There are real inequalities on this campus that need to be addressed. That is why we collaborated with other coalitions to put on the presidential debate. Perhaps Shandilya heard something that he did not agree with, but the debate served as an open forum. The Asian Pacific Student Coalition’s questions dealt specifically with mental health disparities and supporting Asian American and South Asian Studies. Indeed, not being able to learn about our history is something that minorities — including Shandilya — have to “go through,” which is why it was central to hear the candidate’s opinions on these affairs. Whether or not the debate was important to him as an individual is not nearly as important as whether the opportunity exists for the nearly 2,500 Asian American students on Penn’s campus.

Marginalization is not a binary up to an individual’s judgment, but rather a system applied to a population.

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