We need more diversified classrooms

Angel Baikakedi, Columnist

When I applied to liberal arts colleges in the United States, my hope was not only to establish and have valuable interactions with my professors but also to engage with various perspectives within the small class size that liberal arts schools had to offer. To my surprise, when engaging in classes here at Whitman, discussions and evaluations are mostly US-specific. This is okay given that I am studying in the US, but what about how the ideas we learn in our classes relate to other countries? What about other perspectives?

In its broadest sense, diversity refers to the practice of having various forms of one thing, such as ideas or methodologies, on how to do something. But what exactly does diversity look like in the classroom, outside of the number of students of color in each class or the different cultures represented? The answer to this is simple: by generating syllabi that interact with said cultures and representations on a global scale.

Now, I’ve only been at Whitman for close to a year and a half, and I didn’t start college under the greatest of circumstances, so I might not have been able to experience all that the school has to offer yet. Still, I think that Whitman can and should make it part of their aim for courses to provide insights on topics beyond the United States, which has become the default in every discussion.

Illustration by Anna Stone.

Some may say that the school adopting an overarching academic theme per school year is a step in the right direction, which it is, but that’s scratching the surface when looking at all the work that needs to be done. Others may also argue that it is the students’ responsibility to provide varying outlooks to the materials they interact with, or even better, take more classes within a concentration that provides these views, which again is sensible, but there needs to be a foundation for that to happen.

For me, this concern again reflects how Whitman is still behind on fulfilling its diversity desires beyond satisfying the diversity quotas for the year. I’m not saying that the school should entirely focus on bringing together the course material and global welfare, but it should be woven into the course material along with other things. If the course administrators are willing to play their part, then everything else will follow. 

I came to a college like Whitman for the full, celebrated liberal arts experience they advertise and although the school is doing an adequate job at that, my expectations are yet to be exceeded. Again, this is not to say that they are bad at what they do. However, it is essential to involve as many voices in education as possible to prepare students for the world beyond college. An additional good take at this would be to hire and retain more international faculty and students alike and modifying the first-year seminars to include an increased universal outlook.