Harmony Remains Elusive, But N.C. State Still Celebrates

The Division of Student Affairs at North Carolina State University will be “Celebrating Race and Ethnicity” this semester. Really. It has even developed a full slate of programs by which to celebrate these all-important nouns.

A look at the division’s website and the accompanying links to “University Resources” on its “Diversity Theme” make it crystal clear that N.C. State’s governing idea of “diversity” is almost exclusively “Race and Ethnicity.” You’ll see there was a staff retreat focused on efforts to achieve racial diversity. The university has an Office of Diversity and African American Affairs. It’s somehow separate from its Office of Equal Opportunity as well as its trifurcated office of Multicultural Student Affairs (comprising African American Student Affairs, Hispanic Student Affairs, and Native American Student Affairs). N.C. State even has designated “Protected Classes of Race & Color.”

Why? Does N.C. State actually believe it will to create harmony on campus by deliberately making students even more conscious of their racial differences?

Harmony is step three of N.C. State’s diversity process. Right now N.C. State is still at step one, focused on its “climate” for diversity. Step one involves, apparently, “celebrating” race and ethnicity, herding students into “protected classes of race and color,” and asking students how poorly their particular class of race or color is received by students of the other classes.
Nobody at N.C. State has a clue what the second step should be, just that it should lead to the harmony; i.e., where race and color aren’t issues to students.

As for step one, N.C. State recently released the results of a campuswide diversity poll of students. According to The News & Observer July 28, the poll “found that students generally feel good about interactions among one another and with faculty, but that African-Americans and Hispanics on average were less satisfied than white students” (emphasis added).

“Students say a series of incidents in the past two years illustrates the need for more understanding about diversity on campus,” the N&O reports. It is a “series” of two. “In April 2002, a black student filed a complaint when a white student told him to ‘go back to Africa’ during a class discussion. In February, someone painted derogatory remarks about Arabs and homosexuals in the campus’ free-expression tunnel.”

Those are it; single acts by two of N.C. State’s nearly 30,000 students over two school years. The “go back to Africa” remark came before the class had begun and after the black student had denounced the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and the Founding Fathers as corrupt and racist. His complaint, by the way, was also dismissed. And those familiar with the free-expression tunnel know how futile it is to nurse a grievance over its quickly changing, often gratuitously offensive graffiti.

The examples do at least illustrate students’ “need for more understanding about diversity”; that is, to understand it beyond racial diversity. It’s an understanding they don’t get at N.C. State. Offensiveness runs many ways in those examples, yet the focus is on only the offense to the “protected class or color.” The free-expression tunnel is rife with offensive slogans, yet we hear of one complaint. The student making the offensive “go back to Africa” remark was herself offended by the other’s offensive portrayals of her country, her heroes, and her heritage.

The N&O article ends with a hopeful look at two black football players at N.C. State, who “said they haven’t felt left out at all.” The athletes “say the rest of the student body could learn from watching team interactions. There, they say, race isn’t an issue.”

That, ostensibly, is N.C. State’s goal. But where among N.C. State’s celebrations of race and ethnicity, its protected classes by race and color, and the rest of its racially focused diversity obsession can one find anything pointing to race not being an issue?