An understanding and appreciation of diverse peoples, cultures, and perspectives informs the intellectual framework on which our institutional mission is based and is critical to Scripps’ realization of its goal to become the premier liberal arts college in the country. The College is committed to demonstrating that respect of differences among people is a prerequisite to achieving institutional excellence.
Through its policies and its actions, Scripps strives to create an environment in which acknowledging and engaging issues of race, ethnicity, religion, belief, opinion, economic class, age, gender, sexuality, and physical ableness are inextricably part of the experience of the campus community.
Miss Ellen Browning Scripps’ vision for the College she founded was a stirring one: “to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously and hopefully.” For Scripps College students in the 21st century, the education that fulfills this mission must include establishing their own sense of values and guiding principles, as well as the capacity to work with and learn from the variety of people, cultures and viewpoints they will encounter in the United States and in emerging global society. The interaction of each student’s own beliefs and values with those of fellow students, faculty, staff and others encountered here at Scripps forms the crucible in which her education will be tested. Offering a truly interactive and multifaceted community of teachers and learners is the only way in which the College can meet its goal of offering the best liberal arts education in America.
What will be different about a Scripps that is more diverse, more challenging, more embracing? We know that it is not merely “adding” people of different backgrounds to a homogenous society. It will mean that virtually every conversation will have many more than two viewpoints; it will mean that the underlying assumptions of every question will be probed. “Majority” members of the community will need to change their assumptions. It will certainly mean that the roles played by women of color, or gay students, or Muslim students, recent immigrants or differently-abled students, will change. Each of us at Scripps will understand that there are a variety of “markers” of identity for all students, faculty and staff. There should be fewer occasions when a student feels she is the “only” representative of a group on campus, or in her class, or in a social club or sports team. By making sure there is a growing diversity not only drawn from different groups, but including those representing differences within groups, we will begin to break down the idea that one’s viewpoint is synonymous with one’s race, ethnicity, neighborhood, religion, etc. We must have more of many different kinds of students, faculty and staff, so that all of us concentrate more on what emerges from a truly vigorous debate, one that includes points of view not heard before.
Scripps began as a deliberate, planned college community to serve one underserved part of society: women, who were not equally welcome at America’s colleges and universities. Scripps College’s founder could not earn a degree from the college she attended because she was a woman—and only men could graduate from that college. Indeed, rooted as Scripps College is in the work of liberating women’s minds through education, we should be even more committed to the work of diversifying our community than most educational institutions. We should begin to approach a time when the perceived stereotype of a “Scrippsie” will be so complex, so layered, so invigorating, that it dissolves under even cursory inspection. We should look forward to a time when the discussion of stereotypes is more open, more common, and maybe even more fun.
This will require that we truly understand and commit to including at our table members of every group, because every single person who shares our goals and passion for women’s education can contribute to it, whatever their other characteristics. The more different voices, the greater the music we can make.
We understand that including new people and new “kinds” of people may strain some of our assumptions and customs. We understand it may be uncomfortable and difficult. We understand that everyone who joins in the endeavor will need to commit absolutely to the Principles of Community, particularly the section that encourages “expression of the broadest range of opinions and beliefs,” while recognizing that “such expressions may offend, provoke, and disturb.” We welcome the necessary discomforts that will ensue, because we believe that part of a great education is discomfort with all that we may think we know, from whatever perspective we come. Students, faculty and staff will learn to share their insights and ask others for help in new and different ways.
At the same time, we recognize that the young people who come to us for liberal arts training, particularly those from the most challenging backgrounds, should not bear the burden of educating the adults who seek to serve them or the students who seek to learn with them. We must learn to help them question, evaluate and then assert what they hold most dear, while we attempt to truly understand them and their experiences. All of our students should emerge with a firm and confident “voice” of their own, even if that voice is used more to question than to answer. All of the faculty and staff must educate ourselves, so that we can help our students learn. Our goal is to have students think clearly and independently, acknowledging and using a variety of perspectives. Our goal is to have our graduates live confidently, courageously and hopefully, not because they are certain of a particular set of truths, but because they have learned to live with uncertainty, to balance their own strongest convictions with the knowledge that others may not share those convictions.