Editorial series: Defining diversity in a new light

Diversity is increasingly valued by our society and has always been a popular buzzword on this campus in particular. When students first arrive at the U, they discover that they are surrounded by individuals who speak different languages and come from all corners of the world. At first glance, it does seem that the campus is very diverse, in the oft-used context of the word: cultural and racial diversity. However, differences cannot only be identified by a box checked on the census. This fall, The Miami Hurricane will explore the evolving concepts of diversity and inclusivity on this campus in an ongoing editorial series.

With the first week of school, we explore the importance of intellectual diversity – different disciplines and ways of thinking about the questions studied by academics.

In addition to the traditional concept of racial diversity, intellectual diversity is a crucial component to fostering inclusivity. This is especially relevant on our own campus, where President Julio Frenk is striving to establish the U as a global example of a diverse institution. It can be difficult to decipher empty promises from true strives for change, but President Frenk’s plans for the future, combined with the steps he’s already taken, seem to achieve the latter.

The University of Miami made headlines in May when it announced the first chair of atheism and secularist studies in the United States. As an academic institution, we cannot meaningfully discuss diversity without addressing intellectual diversity. This requires attracting intelligent and distinguished individuals who can advocate for different ways of thinking, take varying approaches to issues in their field and challenge or improve the work of their colleagues.

In President Frenk’s eight Roadmap Initiatives released over the summer, he introduced comprehensive plans to achieve true diversity. Among these is the 100 Talents initiative: by the university’s centennial in 2025, Frenk seeks to create 100 new endowed chair positions to bring the best academics in the world to research and teach here. Because endowed professorships are so coveted and prestigious, the hope is that the positions will be alluring enough to compete with other universities and draw intellectual powerhouses to Coral Gables.

The new ideas, experiences and work that these endowed chairs will bring to this campus will leave a lasting impression on the minds of the students who walk through their classrooms, and we are very excited to see the unveiling of each new chair.

“Mentorship is crucial,” Frenk told The Miami Hurricane in a press conference on Aug. 19. “The heart and soul of a university is that unique encounter where young minds that are seeking new knowledge and have a huge potential meet the minds of devoted faculty members. So that’s the idea.”

This is a reminder to students that the people they may learn the most from while at UM are not only their peers from different countries or different races, but also those who show them how to think differently. An art major may look at things differently than a computer science student. An architect may not necessarily speak the same language as a BFA in musical theater. There is still a gulf of understanding between the humanities and the sciences that needs to be bridged.

The exchanges that happen when people of different disciplines encounter each other outside the classrooms are crucial to our growth and our awareness of the world. No one can work in isolation in the 21st century. Being able to have meaningful conversations with many different types of thinkers and problem solvers will help us fit into an increasingly connected and interdisciplinary workforce after graduation.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board. Today’s editorial is the first in a three-part series. The second installment will be published Sept. 15.