Over my years at Northwestern, in more than a few of my classes we have come to the discussion of what NW should be doing for students who feel like outsiders or minorities on campus.
The conversation is not about racial minorities, but rather students who are non-Christians or those who disagree with the values with which NW aligns. It has been mentioned that often these students feel out of place and NW should be accommodating to make sure they do not feel like outcasts.
It sounds wrong that there is not an equal opportunity for a sense of comfort for every student who comes here. Often the few students who say NW should not have to change for a few people appear insensitive. However, I do not believe it’s heartlessness that defines the argument for not making adjustments.
Students who feel out of place are often ones who differ from the “typical” NW student. While diversity of thought is important, the institution of NW and what it stands for is built around an idea that appeals to a specific person, which is why a lot of NW students are similar to each other.
The private/Christian side of the institution is what sets it apart for so many students, so if you start to move away from this you lose the core value of what makes NW special. Rather than changing for students who feel like outsiders, is it okay to say maybe this is not the school for you?
Don’t get me wrong: diversity is good. It’s so important to learn from people different from you. This institution has a lot of strengths, but let’s be real- if you are looking for your college years specifically to be the time you grow and learn about different people, NW is not exactly the hot spot for this in the first place.
The question here is: should NW move towards appealing to get more diverse students to attend? Or stick to the traditional values?
To me, there’s nothing wrong with being at a place where you fit in. It’s okay to grow with similar people while still being challenged and strengthening what you believe. The basis of why you choose your friends is that you can relate. So if students are feeling like outsiders at NW because they are not connecting, should the blame really be placed on anyone?
Though not ideal, another factor to consider would be that NW gets most of its private donations from traditional, conservative Christians. If the people donating to NW no longer have a passion for what the school stands for, they will not give their money.
Yes, moving in different directions might bring in different donors, but losing the private, Christian appeal would leave nothing to set it apart from any other university.
I should hope students never feel unloved by the people here— as Christians we should not be the reason they feel like outsiders. However, if it is not the people here but rather the institution itself that makes them uncomfortable, is it okay to say NW is not for everyone?