Diversity is focal point of lecture

Author and nationally recognized expert on higher-education diversity issues Sylvia Hurtado spoke to UCSD students and staff in the Cross Cultural Center on Tuesday. Affirmative action admissions lawsuits involving the University of Michigan and other issues affecting diversity in higher education were addressed.

Sam Scoufos
Guardian

Hurtado discussed her work as an academic and researcher. She explained how her research was used in the pending University of Michigan lawsuits, one of which is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Hurtado also explained how important diverse peer interaction is to learning in college.

“”Concepts, vocabulary, altruism and political attitudes are learned in conjunction with peers,”” she said.

Sam Scoufos
Guardian

Hurtado said that lawyers working on the Michigan lawsuit asked her, “”How do we know that education is better with diversity in the classroom?”” She said that the lawyers were looking for empirical data as evidence. From research done at the University of Michigan involving 88 graduates who were scored on so-called “”democracy outcomes,”” which included leadership, cultural awareness and civic participation, Hurtado noted consistency in the findings showing that students who had diverse contact with peers in college scored high on these outcomes. She said that she and researchers started with theory and then analysis.

Hurtado explained that studies have shown that most people are “”routine and mindless and not active thinkers.””

She said people like to follow established scripts. But, explained, “”in order for real learning to occur you have to be challenged, then you can use scripts and at that point learning occurs.””

“”Learning occurs with interaction that causes us to change our world view,”” she said in giving examples such as rethinking stereotypes.

Diversity is the vehicle for that learning to occur, Hurtado said.

Hurtado said she is often disheartened when she hears from minority college students who tell stories about feeling alienated on campus.

“”I think universities have an obligation to produce leaders who can bridge the diversity gap,”” she said.

Campus student organizations had a positive reaction to Hurtado’s message.

“”The speech was very positive and informative because affirmative action affects underrepresented communities,”” said Movimiento Estudantil Chicano/a de Azatlan Chair Viviana Avitia.

Hurtado’s speech raised the issue of whether a diverse curriculum could be used instead of student diversity in its educational aims.

Hurtado explained that less is gained from classes on diversity that are theory-based when compared to peer interaction.

MEChA high school conference chairperson Wendy Mendoza said, “”UCSD has theory but little interaction.””

Minority students do not have the opportunity to express their needs and the campus does not have adequate facilities such as those for informal discussion for minority students, Mendoza said.

Mendoza added that spaces that are for minorities such as the Cross Cultural Center, Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services, and Summer Bridge are constantly struggling for funding. Mendoza also said there is no Chicano/Hispanic major or minor at UCSD.

Director of O.A.S.I.S. Patrick Velasquez said Hurtado’s speech gave him “”a lot of inspiration and validation for some of the things we’re doing at O.A.S.I.S.””

O.A.S.I.S. has a historic mission to provide service to minority students, he said.

Velasquez also said Hurtado’s research was strong to support the claim that diversity is an integral part of education.

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