I remember being a senior in high school and getting all of these glossy pamphlets featuring green campuses and smiling white teeth. The smiles belonged to people who were ethnically diverse but still hung out together in dorm rooms adorned with university logos.
I would think that any college-age student can remember at least one token black kid and guy in a wheelchair on everything from educational programming for children to bad sitcoms. They were there to teach us that diversity is supposed to be a good thing.
Meanwhile, over a quarter of TU’s students are from other countries. According to U.S. News, this is a rare feat; Tulsa had the third highest number of enrolled international students in the nation for the 2013–2014 academic year, with international students making up over 26 percent of the student body.
Instead of just displaying diversity by pushing international students into PR photo shoots, TU should further embrace and advertise its status as an international hub in the midwestern United States by encouraging incoming freshmen to view attendance at TU as a special opportunity to interact with people from all over the world.
Opportunities for interaction are already everywhere: in classes, in ACAC, in residence halls and in the cafeteria. One opportunity is a program called ‘Cane Connections, meant for students who are interested in getting to know someone from a different country. The idea is that domestic and international students will sign up looking for a friend, resource or language partner, and then the program will pair people accordingly. This program provides a different setting for communication because people meet one-on-one, not in an indirect setting like orientation.
The university has already sent out emails promoting ‘Cane Connections to students enrolled in language courses. However, this opportunity should be extended to all students, especially new students. Existing students have signed up for ‘Cane Connections, but not enough to desegregate campus. This is not because students are bigoted or lazy; it’s because they’re apathetic—too safe in their comfort zones.
When incoming freshmen confirm attendance at TU, or when they sign up for housing, they should be prompted: “Would you like to sign up for ‘Cane Connections?” Under the question, there would be a brief description of the program, a link to more information, and “Yes” and “No” options. If the student hits yes, he or she is directed to the ‘Cane Connections online registration form.
Incoming students would then already be integrating on a deeper level than most students on campus. To end segregation on campus, making options like ‘Cane Connections as easily accessible as possible is a necessity.