Awards for diversity and inclusion are not enough

Khadija Saifullah

The University was recently recognized as one of 13 universities in the nation as a 2016 Diversity Champion by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine — the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in the nation. The award implies that the University exemplifies commitment to diversity and inclusion through the activity in their student organizations, communities, and academic programs, not just at the student level but also at the administrative level. However, despite this honor, we still have a long way to make progress towards a more inclusive environment.

The University has held vigils where students from different backgrounds stand together in solidarity against hate crimes. Hundreds of us have stood together in memory of Haruka Weiser’s murder last spring. When a tragedy hits, we stand more in solidarity than ever, but we must remember that genuine solidarity is standing by each other despite our diversity on campus as well. UT is one of the largest universities in the nation, and our diversity makes the educational experience at the University priceless.

Aside from being named as the Diversity Champion by INSIGHT, the University has received the Higher Education Excellence Diversity award for five years in a row. It has also been named to the 2015 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service. This honor in particular upholds the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to service learning, civic engagement and volunteerism.

UT’s student community and organizations’ efforts towards service, education and interfaith dialogue are some of the main reasons why we are well-known for our inclusion and diversity. For example, events are held on campus like the White Rose Society by Texas Hillel each spring, when white roses are passed out around the West Mall. The 10,000 roses symbolize the 10,000 lives that were lost each day during the Holocaust.

This annual event is organized to spread awareness of genocide and to commemorate those who suffered from the tragedy of World War II. Every year, the society focuses on a specific cause with last year’s bringing the Syrian refugee crisis to the table. Roses were passed out around the West Mall with a pamphlet attached explaining the parallels between the crisis in Syria and the Holocaust. These events are small gestures that unify Longhorns on campus.

The University has been making significant progress but still has a long way to go. Only recently did we honor our first black undergraduates, and we are just beginning to think about renaming the RLM building — named after a man who did not allow black students to make above a C in his class. The awards are well-deserved, but they shouldn’t cause us to stop and think that we are doing enough. Moving towards a more inclusive and diverse-friendly environment on campus should be a constant effort made by students and faculty alike.

Saifullah is a neuroscience junior from Richardson. Follow her on twitter @coolstorysunao