April 9, 2013

LETTER: Defining Diversity

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To the Editor:

Re: “OH: Diversifying the Greek System,” Opinion, April 8

I’m writing in regard to Monday’s op-ed “Diversifying the Greek System,” written by Don Oh. I believe that this piece makes clear that the author made no effort to understand neither the Greek System nor diversity at Cornell.

In his piece, Oh laments the lack of diversity in the Greek System after a brief interaction with students on a sidewalk. Upon seeing this group of “more than 100 drunken individuals in funky clothing,” he concludes “they must come from some obscure Midwestern college in the middle of nowhere. I felt sorry that they wouldn’t get to learn from peers with divergent cultural upbringings.” While I do not understand his need to inform us that college-aged students were drunk (gasp), or his ad hominum attack on the Midwest, what is most troubling is his assumption that racial homogeneity prevents cultural learning. Diversity is not just about race; it’s also about different backgrounds and experiences. I fundamentally disagree with Oh’s belief that individuals within a single race cannot learn about diversity from one another.

Furthermore, Oh owes an apology to the numerous individuals in fraternities that identify as minorities. Oh contends that while fraternities are supposedly open to all, “there is an asterisk that reads: Asians: must not have any accent; Blacks: must be from boarding schools; Gays: must act straight and keep their sex lives behind the door?” In making this claim, he disregards all minority students within the Greek System who do not fit the stereotypes Oh presented and have no less experienced the struggles associated with being a minority

I have gay brothers who have taken me to gay bars in Manhattan. I have a brother from Korea that brought me to his naturalization ceremony. And another brother from Dubai who has taught me more about the Middle East than any class at Cornell. And yet, if Oh were to look into the windows of my so-called “Jewish” house or see a group of us on the streets of Collegetown, he would likely again assume that we were a single-minded, homogenous group. There is no doubt that my house could do more to be diverse, but to say that we have an environment that in anyway discourages ethnic and racial diversity is simply false. Oh’s lack of understanding regarding the culture within the Greek system is evident.

It is possible for diversity to exist even among individuals who share the same race. If we as a community fail to acknowledge and explore the diverse set of beliefs and experiences that we are surrounded with on The Hill, regardless of the racial make up of the particular groups we interact with, we fail to experience the full diversity of this school. In no way am I attempting to discredit the fact that the University and its students need to be more racially inclusive, but we must also not forget that diversity can take many shapes and forms.

Geoffrey Block ’14

Original Author: Geoffrey Block