By Michael Contreras
My name is Michael Contreras. I am a heterosexual, Catholic, 20 year-old, Santa Clara junior, math major, Mexican-Irish-Italian American male from San Jose, CA. These are just a handfull of the many groups that I choose to identify with, but what does it really tell you about me? Issues of race, gender and sexual orientation are hot topics today in our nation, and more importantly here at Santa Clara University. If you were to ask 50 Santa Clara students what they thought about “diversity,” you would get 50 different answers.
The first thing most people think of when we talk about diversity is the numbers. This year, the Class of 2000 is 37 percent ethnic minority as opposed to the Class of 1999 that was 41 percent ethnic minority when it entered in 1995, and the Class of 1998 was 42 percent ethnic minority when it entered SCU in 1994. Obviously, there has been slight decline over the past few years, but if you look at these percentages over the past two decades, you would see a large increase. I believe the university administration has a real commitment to making the Santa Clara University student population a diverse one, not only ethnically, but socioeconomically, religiously and regionally as well.
Just as the labels I give myself only tell you part of who I am, so do these numbers only tell you a part of what Santa Clara is about. These numbers are great for admission brochures, but what is Santa Clara
It is interesting and sad that there are only 30 African-American students in the this year’s Freshman class of over 1,070 students — that is less than three percent. It seems to me very few students at Santa Clara know what it is like to be one of less than 3 percent. It becomes obvious why there are clubs like Igewebuike, MEChA-El Frente, Barkada and the Asian Pacific Student Union. No wonder these clubs try to promote their cultures and give support to their members.
Personally, I am thankful for these clubs. Although I do not belong to any of them, but they give me a chance to learn about cultures to which I would not otherwise be exposed. They share the history of their people and their cultures with the entire student body. Every time I go to an event sponsored by the Multicultural Center (MCC), I come away with a new appreciation for the difference that exists in our world and at Santa Clara University.
This is what diversity is all about. We can talk about numbers until we are blue in the face, but there must be a commitment to diversity by all the members of the community — including the students. The student body needs to realize that a diverse community is a better one. The different faces, cultures and points of view are what make Santa Clara University great. There needs to be the attitude on campus that celebrating our differences is positive for the university community. Unfortunately, I have only seen this attitude demonstrated by a small population of the student body.