Letter: Community leaders should represent, encourage diversity

Two columns have been featured in the Lariat regarding Campus Living and Learning’s requirements for community leaders.

One of them advocated for CL requirements to no longer hinge on the need for a candidate to be a Christian since students of all faiths are in need of the financial assistance the CL scholarship offers.

The other accentuates the ministerial aspect of the CL position. Unfortunately, both articles miss the crux of the matter, which is the campuswide need for diversity.

I have served as a community leader for two and a half years, a position I love and which has come to influence my career aspirations. I wholeheartedly agree that the CL position is much more than the scholarship.

I also recognize that as a faction of Baylor University, Campus Living and Learning cannot change its requirements without Baylor as an institution accepting more diverse points of view.

However, I believe that Baylor is in dire need of diversity in all aspects of campus life. Racial diversity is represented, but one must take into account the diversity in religion, socio-economic background and sexual orientation.

If incoming students are not exposed to diversity through student leadership, how is their experience contributing to their holistic development? How are students meant to enter the world outside of Baylor if they do not possess an awareness of diversity and an ability to interact respectfully with those different from themselves?

Through my experience as a CL, I found dialogues of diversity challenging to develop with students, because many frankly didn’t care about these conversations. Additionally, I found that many students simply didn’t have ideas of diversity on their radar.

When I would bring up questions about Baylor demographics, the campuswide focus on European art and the low number of diverse faculty, I found that many students had never thought about these things. Because they had not been taught to be aware of the importance of diversity, it was easy for them to overlook these conversations and quickly move on to the topic of what was being served in the dining halls.

Baylor does a stellar job of promoting academic rigor and spiritual formation but is failing at developing students that are adequately prepared for worldwide leadership if the student body is not exposed to more diversity campuswide.

The best way to rectify this is by providing more opportunities for students to interact with people, including people of influence, who are different than themselves.

These opportunities can open minds to different cultures, traditions and ways of life and provide a more well-rounded education, which is vital in schools like ours with diverse student populations.

What better way to incorporate diversity awareness than to allow for minority students (again, not simply cultural minorities) to serve as CLs?

From the first day of move-in, CLs are recognized and respected as leaders by students, faculty, and parents. Stereotypes can be challenged from day one if students will learn to connote diversity with CLs and CLs with leadership and respect.

This provides a rich contribution to the student body. All incoming freshmen under 21 must live on campus, and therefore all these students could be more exposed to diversity than they would otherwise be during their time at Baylor.

As representatives of a renowned institution, CLs should represent the wide variety of students enrolled.

Through this, Baylor would have a unique opportunity to support the idea that diversity is something to be celebrated.

Karla Vera Garcia Coleman is a senior Spanish major from Dallas. She serves as a CL in Brooks Flats Apartments and is the president of the Multicultural Leadership Cabinet. She is also the Vice President of Baylor’s chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.