GVSU’s lack of racial diversity is hurting its students’ college experience

Kortney Ondayko

In lieu of the recent bias incident, I believe it is necessary, more than ever, to say the unsaid: Grand Valley’s lack of racial diversity is hurting the student body.

According to Grand Valley’s Office of Institutional Analysis, 90.8% of students are Caucasian.

Think about that for a second. That leaves less than 10 percent for students of color. Though almost 25,000 students attend Grand Valley, there are only roughly 2,500 students at the university that identify as non-white.

To me, though they may be pitiable, these statistics are not at all surprising. From classrooms to on campus events, the racial disproportion is clearly visible.

Though there are many fantastic things about Grand Valley, this lack of racial diversity is a huge downfall. Not only do these statistics reflect the lack of representation of racial backgrounds, but it also reflects the creation of a community in which racial diversity becomes unfamiliar.

This is detrimental to GVSU students. A community in which 90% are Caucasian creates a recipe for, conscious or not, one to think that the embracing and celebrating racial diversity is not important.

I come from an extremely diverse town and therefore attended a very diverse high school. This is something I am so grateful for because it exposed me to so many different cultures, ways of thinking and most of all it taught me to learn from and appreciate other people’s unique life experiences based on cultural differences.

Based on my high school experience, I expected college to be the same: that I would look around my classroom and see African American students, Asian, Indian, Latino or other racially diverse students.

However, this has not been the case. Out of the five courses I am taking, only two of them have any kind of student of color represented in them. And I believe it affects my learning experience as well as Grand Valley’s entire student body.

Not only do students lose learning opportunities – the GVSU community is more susceptible to bias incidents.

One good thing that came out of the recent racial bias incident is the subsequent dialogue of racist incidents on campus, implications of them and the discussion in general about race at Grand Valley. Bias incidents do happen at GV and they happen more than they are reported.

I do want to acknowledge that GVSU has clubs and organizations that support equal treatment and celebrate diversity. GV even has a very efficient system for reporting bias incidents, but this is simply not enough. If the negative implications of Grand Valley’s absence of racial diversity are to be erased, the percentages have to change.

If racial differences weren’t so unfamiliar and racial diversity is increased, the GVSU community can only benefit: educationally and socially.