Flagler student tackles diversity on campus

By Justin Katz | gargoyle@flagler.edu

John Monroe

John Monroe always knew Flagler College was a predominantly Caucasian school.

He didn’t expect that statistic to have the impact it has.

“I’ve seen a lot of minorities leave Flagler College to pursue other college careers at more diverse schools,” said Monroe.

Monroe is not the first to notice this problem.

The faculty senate’s diversity committee, chaired by Anne DeMartini, associate professor of sports management, was formed at the beginning of the academic year. It was a response to Flagler’s overall desire to improve the first year experience.

“Flagler was weaker on that dimension,” DeMartini said. “We wanted a more centralized location to try to be able to address issues of diversity.”

Monroe connected with DeMartini in hopes of tackling the issue head on. He suggested setting up in the gazebo and asking students to respond to the question: “What is the definition of diversity?”

It garnered responses like this from one anonymous student: “Diversity is differences. Differences in race, culture, gender, orientation and beliefs.”

According to data collected by U.S. News and World Report during the 2012 to 2013 school year, Flagler lacks these differences.

In the diversity index, colleges are ranked from 0.0 – 1.0. The closer to 1.0 a college’s score is, the more diverse. The highest-ranking schools were New Jersey’s Rutgers University and the University of Hawaii with a 0.77.

In comparison, Flagler scored a meager 0.27.

Quenisha Perry, junior at Flagler, has been writing and researching a paper about the lack of racial diversity at Flagler College. Her drive to research the issue has been, in part, fueled by remarks she hears from students around campus.

“People make jokes and say you can have all the black people in one room at Flagler and it won’t even fill it up. You can count all the black people at the school on one hand,” Perry said. “It’s sad that you can make these types of jokes because they actually have some type of background.”

These remarks brought Monroe to his second question: What can Flagler college do to become more diverse? Monroe received answers varying from comical jabs at the school to the suggestion of minority studies programs.

One proactive change students can expect to see is the implementation of a diversity calendar which features events that highlight issues of diversity such as the ongoing Race in the American South series that spotlights civil rights issues.

The diversity committee is hoping not only to create a more diverse environment, but to make diversity a part of Flagler’s priority as a school.

“[The diversity committee] goal is to get some type of statement of diversity into both the academic strategic plan and hopefully into Flagler’s mission,” said DeMartini. Both of those ideas are currently under review by Dean Alan Woolfolk and the new director of communications, respectively.

Although he’ll be graduating this December, Monroe is hopeful these changes will have an lasting effect.

“I feel that once Flagler College deals with this issue of diversity we will not only impact the campus, but the entire community of St. Augustine,” said Monroe.

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