Outstanding Senior award: What the lack of diversity says about TU’s values

After poor communication and hollow claims, the finalists were not representative of the student body.

Every fall, The University of Tulsa announces a maximum of 10 individuals to be honored as Jess Chouteau Outstanding Seniors. These individuals are selected by alumni and are publicly recognized during half-time of the Homecoming football game. The award begins with an application process and is followed by a round of interviews. This year’s announcement of top 10 seniors left quite a sour taste in my mouth; not because those selected were undeserving of recognition by any means, but because of the complete lack of diversity and representation among the recipients.

Attending a university that boasts about its international student population and fostering of cultural diversity, I was taken aback that nine out of 10 honorees were white Americans. Additionally, 7 of the honored students are members of Greek organizations on campus. This emphasis on participation in Greek Life can be seen throughout campus as a majority of our University Ambassadors are in sororities or fraternities, not to mention that over half of the honorees are indeed University Ambassadors.

A fellow student informed me that he was not only appalled by the homogenous group that was being acknowledged as the top of our University, but that he didn’t even find out about the application until 40 minutes before it was due. He speculated that this seemed intentional given that University Ambassadors and Orientation Leaders were sent an email alerting group members to the opening of the top ten applications whereas the rest of the student body was not made privy to such an email. Given that we consistently receive campus-wide emails, I would hope that in the future the University makes opportunities like the top ten senior application more accessible to the entire student body.

Lastly, I can’t really believe that it’s a coincidence in light of True Commitment and the eradication of many degrees within the Henry Kendall College, that not a single honoree is studying a discipline within the Arts & Sciences. Numerous engineers and various business degrees are represented, but not one individual pursuing a degree in the humanities, which administrators have continuously purported to be expanding and elevating as a focus of our University.

In my opinion, the selections for this year’s top 10 senior award emphasizes the age-old adage “actions speak louder than words.” No matter how much our school verbally reinforces its support of and commitment to both the arts and a diverse community, the students we have chosen to recognize for their accomplishments do not align with these claims. What I and many of my peers have taken away from this decision is that there is a very distinct checklist of what makes an accomplished student at The University of Tulsa, and not everyone can check those boxes, nor should everyone want to. I would urge alumni in the future to be more cognisant of the incredibly rich and unique composition of our student body and to include a far broader representation of what all our students offer and achieve here at TU.

Post Author: Tori Gellman