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Analysis of Diversity

This online archive represents the collection and analysis of materials from 1939 to present of Occidental College's history. In focusing scrutiny on the ever-changing issue of diversity and equity on campus, it is clear there has been a fundamental evolution in the way these issues have been conceived of and represented in the Occidental College fabric. Throughout this evolution, however, the constant has been a foundation of student pressure and activism. Most changes on the issue of diversity over the years have occurred as a result of students, with faculty, administrators, and staff reactions as supportive structures. Diversity, then, has chiefly been an evolving process hinged on the Occidental College student experience and cycles of repeating events.

The transition of diversity into a key educational issue had roots in the 1930s. Conversations on what equality meant started to spring up. With the war and draft issues central to students, their experiences began to drive larger discourse on race, gender, and class. Students clearly were aware of larger social conversations, but this ultimately was reflected more conservatively in the administration, a dynamic that repeats itself throughout institutional history. The counter culture of the 60s promoted intense focus on issues of diversity and equity on campus, largely led by students. In conjunction with larger social movements, Oxy students began to push for spaces of resistance on campus. There was heightened administrative support of diversity efforts. However, this too was founded on the growth of student cultural groups on campus.

This constant back and forth of student activism and administrative response would continue. Ultimately, the constant was institutional desire for stability. In varying ways, it is evident movements for greater diversity on campus increased seeming instability, resulting in the administration pulling back. Conversations throughout the Occidental Weekly and faculty meeting minutes reflect the anxiety about stability in the administration. For some, this resulted in a perceived conflict of equity and excellence: was one intrinsic to the other? President Slaughter's tenure represents the absolute connectivity of the two and a culmination of diversity efforts. However, the Slaughter years are perceived with varying degrees of approval. Diversity seemed to be secondary to new goals of stability for the presidency.

Following the Slaughter presidency, there was a marked movement away from equity and diversity as cardinal goals, to financial stability and a differently defined sense excellence. This movement was reflected in removal of equity as necessary to excellence in Occidental College’s mission statement. Movements like C.O.D.E. (the Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity) have propped up in recent years, pushing for a shift back to diversity and equity as fundamental goals. Much of the criticism launched against these groups is that the financial resources simply do not exist, or that promoting diversity has an adverse effect on financial stability. This juxtaposition of financial stability and diversity has become a constant, despite there being no natural opposition between the two goals.

It is clear that the constant of student activism and experience has largely been the route in which diversity has coursed at Occidental. However, after several decades cycling through pushing back and progression, the question is whether there is space for resistance on campus? The new decade has welcomed new student activists, but the institutional anxiety for stability remains a priority.