By Greta Easthom
At Stamp Student Union on Sept. 21, Dr. Carlos E. Cortés, Professor Emeritus of History at the University California, Riverside, spoke out about the present-day struggle in achieving a diverse, inclusive campus in today’s socio-political climate.
Among holding other nationally known and award-winning titles, Cortés was the creative and cultural adviser for the popular children’s television shows, “Dora the Explorer” and “Go, Diego, Go!”
These shows were important in demonstrating to children that “being bilingual is neat,” Cortés said.
His speech, entitled “Diversity and Higher Education: Weathering the Perfect Storm?” addressed a range of minority groups who may feel underrepresented on campus.
Awaiting President Trump’s decision to overturn Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Cortés deemed one of these underrepresented groups to be undocumented students.
“This is our chance to bring together professionals on this campus to discuss certain issues,” Cortés said.
Cortés directed much of his speech toward the Department of Resident Life, a branch of this university he has consulted with since 1995 in regards to diversity-related issues.
About 40 other University of Maryland faculty members, along with several students, listened and participated in the roundtable discussions that ensued in Stamp’s Juan Ramón Jimenez Room.
Cortés said universities tend to play a “numbers game” when calculating their campus’s levels of diversity.
“Inclusion is not as simple as counting,” he said.
University of Wisconsin went so far in 2001 as to Photoshop a black student into a predominantly white student section, as a way to ensure an image of diversity for their admission’s booklet, he said.
In introducing Cortés prior to his speech, Kia Weeden, Staff Development and Services Coordinator for the Department of Resident Life, noted that the current climate on campus definitely renders these discussions relevant.
“I think it’s important for students to know the resources we have,” said Ashlynn Newton, Program Manager Specialist for Department of Resident Life.
Newton added that she would like to see more students come to these diversity-driven discussions.
“Currently, I think students rely on social media to express different points of view,” Newton said, adding that in some cases, this might cause a student to interpret an issue with many different perspectives in a more convoluted way.
“If we can’t say what we feel, then we have destroyed honest conversation,” Newton said.