Map Essay: “For Students of Color, Ivy League Schools Have a Long Way to Go” by Gabriela Thorne As we stray away from the naivety accompanied by childhood and towards the maturity demonstrated by adolescence, we are compelled to abandon our initial rigid ways of thinking and to question the veracity of our reality. Gabriela Thorne’s personal article, For Students of Color, Ivy League Schools Have a Long Way to Go,–devoted to showcasing campus activism–is a real world example of such an instance.
Thorne’s ironic welcome to the elite institution juxtaposed with Harvard’s commitment to promoting diversity highlights the maps she must follow in her everyday life. She claims that diversity is tied with identity: it takes much acceptance to maintain a rich cultural environment. Upon her arrival at the Harvard freshman orientation, Thorne was hardly welcomed. Her impression of the lack of hospitality she experiences is mutual to many peers who then “were simply waiting for the meeting to end.” Here, the map she utilizes is merely that of which any freshman attending Harvard would depend on.
Thorne aims to follow the common pathway to achieve educational success: maintaining a well rounded schedule and adjusting to her environment. Consequently, the latter is a significant component to her current circumstances at the institution. She, as a result being a part of a minority race relative to the school’s ethnic diversity, was inclined to transition in her new environment. Her map–although seemingly common– was tailored to her. As opposed to her initial impression of conquering the the world, she was forced to “navigate all this while constantly being made aware of her difference.
” Ironically, colored students were more prone to adjusting than the institutions which were created exclusively for white men, providing a hurdle along Thorne’s pathway. Of course, this is one evident limitation to applying this specific map to everyday life. Many students similar to her are left feeling a sense of distrust in others who have manipulated them into believing that they do not belong at such a prestigious environment. Thus, colored students tend to assert themselves differently from their white peers and depreciate their worth. This limitation hinders Thorne’s focus on learning and her future opportunities in the world.
Nevertheless, sources of healing were gradually attempting to resolve the situation, but ultimately, it is established that “these places were not created for them.” So then, why are these institutions in pursuit of a diverse school campus? Why do various colleges–if not all colleges—deem “diversity” as their favorite word when it prompts racism and discrimination? The rationale for an inclusive campus is simple; the multi-ethnic environment enriches experiences in numerous ways. The real world example that Thorne depicts provides a lens from which another map can be derived. This second map assumes that once a diverse environment is encouraged, it is as if “a great equalizer to help solve entrenched issues” is put into place. Education in some aspects (including diversity) attempts to fix problems such as poverty and the wealth gap. Statistics delineate that this perspective provokes an increased value on diversity. Consequently, “Harvard was praised for admitting a majority nonwhite class” supporting this claim. At first glance, this map where colleges admit students due to the diversity factor seems to hold significant merit; it supposedly promotes a rich cultural environment, transforms lives, and encourages discussion and debate.
As previously stated, many students mention that the validity of this claim is far from being realistic, implying a limitation to the map. Much more than diversity must be taken into account; it alone cannot fix universal problems. Ultimately, diversity for its own sake becomes useless in the eyes of marginalized groups if explicit steps are not taken towards inclusion. It must be questioned who the diverse campus influences positively. Thus, the map does not cater to all individuals, proving to be another limitation.
Evidently, the optimistic perspective on the effect that the distinct atmosphere provides, fuels the opposing viewpoint that Thorne previously expresses. Based on the maps Thorne’s article discusses, one can claim that the increased value on diverse campuses can be both beneficial and detrimental to those students at the elite institution. One may say it hinders learning and becomes a demotivating factor, negatively affecting the individual in the long and short term, as they no longer will be able to have a transformative college experience. Contrarily, admission officers disagree and think more simplistically and optimistically, noting that their commitment to diversity will improve society in the long run. This raises the question: what, if anything, does diversity tell us about our values and truth?