Editorial: More than checking a box


The tedious process of checking one box after another on the Common Application has commenced for the Lehigh class of 2021. In the next few months, these future Mountain Hawks will be asked to explain their whole identity through a few boxes and a short essay or two.

They will check a box to identify their gender. Another box to identify their race. A third will ask for their income.

The Office of Admissions will then decide who will become the next group of students to attend Lehigh and continue its legacy. As Lehigh begins to choose the class of 2021, the goal of the university should not just be to check off boxes. Diversity should be a top priority, but it should be approached from an intersectional perspective.

At an academic institution where ideas are routinely shared, a diversity of backgrounds tends to lead to a diversity of ideas. Sharing these ideas in and out of the classroom then leads to dialogue about different ways of life and ways of thinking. As a student body, we should value diversity. We should seek different perspectives and a wide range of opinions. We are in college to learn, and this diversity only adds to how much we can learn.

Political and social tensions are high within the country, and a dialogue about these issues is needed, especially among those who will soon enter the workforce.

These conversations can only happen effectively if the group of people having them have a diverse range of ideas.

There are, however, different sorts of diversity, and classification does not always reflect experience. Members of the same racial group can have varying experiences in the same way members of the same gender or individuals of the same socioeconomic status have different experiences. These descriptors have impacted them in various ways.

One descriptor does not mean everyone who fits that profile has had the same experience. Not all women have the same thoughts on women’s issues, just as not all those who are LGBT have the same thoughts on the issues facing their community. Individuals should not be defined or boxed in by one label.

What is important is that Lehigh is a place where diverse individuals, in every sense of the word, come together to teach each other through, often informal, discussion.

At an academic institution whose main purpose is to help students learn, it should be a top priority for the school to have a diverse class. Students can only truly learn about other perspectives from interacting with those who hold those ideas.

More than 60 percent of Lehigh’s student body is from New York, New Jersey or Pennsylvania. The students from these areas may have had vastly different experiences, but the regional similarity of where these students have lived means there is a higher chance they have had similar experiences. While there is nothing wrong with this, it would be beneficial for all of those who attend Lehigh to live with and sit next to people from different areas, both geographically and idealistically.

There are students from 37 states and 29 countries at Lehigh, but those students make up a statistical minority. When the class of 2018 was admitted, it was the most diverse Lehigh class to date — and even then, 66 percent of the class identified as white and 63 percent of students were from those three states.

Lehigh’s Office of Admissions decides to reject or admit a student based on a “holistic approach.” This approach means students’ test scores, extracurricular activities and general circumstances are taken into consideration when the admissions officers are deciding their admission. This holistic process, in theory, should lead to the acceptance of a diverse class of Lehigh students because students are admitted for various reasons.

If this is the case, why are so many students from just three states? This may be because of the location of Lehigh. Maybe the applicants aren’t as diverse as at other universities, and the student body is merely reflective of the applicant pool. Regardless of the reasoning, there should be a conscious effort, now more than ever, to diversify the university. Recruitment efforts should be modified to attract as diverse as an applicant pool as possible.

The value of a diverse student body goes beyond checking the boxes of racial and socioeconomic diversity. The Lehigh legacy should be carried on by a group of people that is diverse in every way.

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