A C I F I C L U T H E R A N U N I V E R S
I T Y
I N T E R 2 0 0 1 - 2 0 0 2
Students, faculty and administrators work to create a more
diverse, inclusive campus
Jodi Maeda was looking at colleges, she entered the characteristics
she wanted into computer searches: a small school, strong academics,
close enough that she could return to her Hawaii home but far
enough away that she could be independent.
"I wanted to expand my horizons," said Maeda, a senior.
"PLU just kept coming up." She was impressed by the
admissions counselor she met at her high school, and she chose
to become a Lute.
Maeda, a Japanese American, feels like she belongs on the Parkland
campus, which strives to include students of different racial,
ethnic and religious backgrounds, as well as nontraditional age
students, students with disabilities and sexual minorities.
"This is something that's
been a part of our soul and character from the start," PLU
President Loren J. Anderson said. "A Lutheran university understands
that each and every person is important and precious. None of the
false walls that can be built around gender, race, sexual orientation
or ethnic background have any place here."
The cover art:
The cover art for this issue
is the work of Mark Dunn '01. It was selected for publication
because of the artful, poignant way it depicts PLU opening
doors to all people of different backgrounds and beliefs.
Dunn, who graduated with a bachelor of fine arts with an
emphasis in design, used acrylic paints on canvas.
Scene asked the students in
Stan Shaw's spring illustration class to come up with drawings
portraying diversity and inclusiveness at PLU. These talented
students developed many unique and creative interpretations,
and Shaw and editors at Scene chose the finalist.
We thank Dunn, Shaw and all the students who gave their
talents to this project.
We thank Dunn, Shaw and all
the students who gave their talents to this project.
Opening PLU's doors to students who
bring different perspectives and experiences enriches the university
community. And that reflects the spirit in which the university
was founded more than a century ago.
"Think about the community we
can build here if we all live out the simple commitment that each
person is precious," the president said. "Think about
the community we can build if we accept the idea that 'precious'
includes difference, for it is the one different from me whose
fresh perspectives and unique experience can truly stretch my
envelope and help me grow."
Travis Anderson, an African-American
student leader applauds the university for cultivating that climate,
but he and others yearn to see an even more diverse population.
"I chose Pacific Lutheran because
it has a good business school, a good music department and a small
size," said Anderson '03. "It's a great school, but
there is a lack of diversity."
Students say having more people from
underrepresented groups will make everyone feel more included.
"You look and you don't see
anyone who is really like you," said Roxanne Badillo '02,
a Hispanic student from Bellingham, Wash., who serves as ASPLU's
diversity director. "It needs to be a place of inclusiveness,
and it's getting there."
Maeda '02 is willing to help people
understand, but as a Japanese American from Hawaii, she has had
"When I first came here, people
asked me if I lived in a grass hut," she said. She has explained
repeatedly that she is from Hawaii, but not Hawaiian.
Michael Mallicote '02 and Roxanne Badillo '92, take part
in the Diversity Town Meeting in October. Another town meeting
will be held in the spring.
Knowing that a diverse inclusive
campus is a gift, administrators and faculty intend to foster
a climate that encourages students from different backgrounds
to embrace PLU.
"By having a diverse campus,
PLU can be powerful," said Bill Teska, associate provost.
"Each of our histories are different, so collectively we
can be reflective of the society in which we live."
PLU has not set any specific goals
regarding enrollment of minorities, President Anderson said, except
this: "Keep working."
PLU ranks No. 2 among Lutheran colleges
in the number of American minority students and is first in the
number of international students. Still, administrators acknowledge
the demographics could be improved-to everyone's benefit. To that
end, the university has focused on attracting a diverse population
of students and employees by supporting student groups and programs,
creating a task force to explore the climate on campus and looking
critically at its own mission.
Jacqueline Harmon '98 performs part of her one-woman
show "Blackbird Singing," at PLU. The show celebrates
the legacy of African-American divas and their contribution
to opera music.
The numbers of minority students
have gone up. Students classified as "multi-ethnic"
number 451 this year, making up 13.2 percent of the student body,
up from 8 percent in 1991. Asian-Americans are the largest group,
followed by African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and
those who identify themselves as multi-racial, a category the
university began tracking in 1999. Diversity is also enhanced
by students of different faiths, students with disabilities, older
students and sexual minorities.
In addition, there are 195 international
students enrolled this year, coming mostly from Scandinavia and
By contrast, minorities make up more
than 22 percent of the population in Pierce County, about 26 percent
in Parkland, more than 30 percent of Tacoma and 18 percent of
the state, according to the 2000 Census.
Work to enroll and retain more minority
students should continue at a fast pace, said Beth Kraig, a history
professor and member of the University Diversity Committee. The
university can't simply be pleased with progress.
"The positives should never
be taken as a sign that we've come far enough," Kraig said.
"It should be seen as a sign that we can do this."
want a sense of ownership
Darius Alexander '02 and his friends want to reach out to the
PLU community and beyond. They and other motivated students who
belong to B.L.A.C.K.@PLU volunteer off-campus, giving speeches
at middle schools and talking to youngsters about preparing for
college and accepting people of all backgrounds. He also organized
a step show on campus, featuring the rhythmic dancing and stomping
made popular in the black community, to bring people from the
community to PLU.
Students are forming more organized
groups to spotlight their cultures and introduce them to PLU.
Clubs now include the Korean Club, Hawaii Club, Asian Pacific
Islander Club, B.L.A.C.K.@PLU, Puentes for Latino students, Harmony
for gay and lesbian students and their supporters, the Feminist
Student Union, the Diversity Coalition, Norwegian and other international
student groups and social activists. Programs run throughout the
year to bridge the gap between groups and get people talking to
The establishment of the new Diversity
Center, which opened on the lower level of the University Center
last fall, went a long way in showing the university's commitment
to multiculturalism and giving students a campus home of their
Most minority students say they haven't
experienced any overt discrimination but say some PLU students
- and teachers - could be more sensitive. Students don't want
to be singled out in class to speak from a presumably different
point of view simply because of their race. They want to be seen
and heard on campus, but they don't want to be made into token
minorities for photos or events.
"If there are racist people,
they're under the table, because they know it's not accepted,"
said Travis Anderson, who is taking a semester off to focus on
his music. "I just think they're uninformed. People just
need to learn."
Alexander has had several classes
where he is the only person of color.
"I think I've opened my mind to a lot of other cultures,
and hopefully I've helped some other people open their minds,"
The faculty and administration have
taken a strong stand on increasing understanding by requiring
students to take two diversity courses focusing on alternate perspectives
or cross-cultural perspectives, pursuing a diverse faculty and
working with different departments to improve conversations between
faculty and students.
Religion professor Samuel Torvend
'73 says one of the core values of a Lutheran education is recognizing
that a diverse community is a gift, and that we honor the dignity
and difference in others.
"From the Lutheran intellectual
perspective, nobody has to justify himself or herself," he
said. "There's no place at a Lutheran university for discrimination."
The university aims to recruit faculty
and staff from different backgrounds while appreciating those
with long service to PLU and the church. Provost Paul Menzel is
thrilled with the hiring of Deborah Miranda, a Native American
English professor who brings a wealth of knowledge and important
perspective to campus. And President Anderson said the university
has been successful in creating a much more diverse staff.
"It's important to welcome faculty and staff from a wide
variety of backgrounds to give richness and texture and lifelikeness
to the place," President Anderson said.
gaining wider acceptance
For some, it's not race, but
sexual orientation that makes them feel disenfranchised. For gay
and lesbian students and faculty, being recognized as a minority
is an important step. Anytime someone is reduced to a stereotype
based on one characteristic, it's hurtful, said Tom Campbell,
English professor and co-adviser to Harmony. In the "robust
tradition of academic freedom and the Lutheran tradition of open
inquiry," he encourages people to open their minds to see
sexual minorities as more than sexual beings and to start conversations.
A Lutheran university understands
that each and every person is important and precious. None
of the false walls that can be built around gender, race,
sexual orientation or ethnic background have any place here.
- President Loren
Campbell said conversations about
gay rights are taking place on campuses across the country as
sexual minorities make their voices heard. "Like with any
oppressed minority group, if they don't speak up, it's about silence
and invisibility," Campbell said.
Campbell said much progress has been made since he and history
professor Beth Kraig helped form Harmony in the early '90s. Students
have learned to speak out, the campus appears more accepting of
openly gay staff and students, and harassment of sexual minorities
is specifically prohibited in university policies.
The university created a Commission
on Campus Climate to assess the atmosphere and recommend ways
to foster an inclusive and affirming community marked by care,
mutual respect and an ability to engage in civil discourse.
LeAnn Jones '02 actively promotes diversity on campus
through her involvement in many organizations. Last year,
she was the ASPLU diversity director.
President Anderson formed the commission
after anti-gay graffiti was spray painted on the administration
building last fall. The university condemned the act, reiterating
its belief that all people are welcome and worthy. Many students
also were outraged, which got people talking about the importance
of a diverse, open-minded campus. The university policy states
that PLU "holds as basic the integrity and well being of
every person in the community. It is committed to providing an
educational environment that is fair, consistent, caring, and
supportive of intellectual and personal growth."
"What we're trying to model
is what the Lutheran Church would have us do," President
Anderson said, "that is encourage conversation and discussion
about gender identification and sexual identity."
Others support PLU's ongoing efforts.
"I think it is so strong of
those people who do say they're gay," said Badillo, the ASPLU
diversity director. "It is difficult for a lot of us minorities
to see the sexual minorities having to deal with that discrimination."
Projects aim to
improve climate, keep students
Students have produced a video, "Conversations
About Diversity," to increase understanding. In it, students
- some minorities, some not - discuss how they feel about diversity
at PLU and their personal experiences. Teska, the associate provost,
finds the video remarkable and moving. He and Eva Frey, associate
director for multicultural affairs, are playing it for faculty
members in an effort to provide them more insight from students'
If you want to be lackadaisical
and just fit it, this isn't the place for you. But if you
want something to challenge you, if you want a great faculty
and opportunities for leadership, if you want a place that
will grow and change and you can see that growth, then PLU's
the place for you.
- LeAnn Jones
The Commission on Campus Climate
also had in-depth conversations with students, faculty and staff
to assess the current climate and come up with ways to improve
"PLU students, faculty and staff agree that this is a remarkable
community whose potential is not yet reflected in our reality,"
the commission concluded. "They share a vision of a community
grounded in both faith and reason and yearn for these ideals to
be lived more intentionally through stronger connections with
each other and visible support for inclusion and diversity."
The commission recommended more clearly
articulating the university's mission, revising new student orientation
programs, revising the critical conversation courses and coordinating
student religious activities more intentionally and effectively.
President Anderson said work started
immediately to clarify the university's mission, to increase student
understanding of the nature of a Lutheran university, to restructure
student activities and encourage conversations. Among other things,
the Provost's Office is reviewing the academic advising program
and Student Life is working to promote greater interaction among
Alex Miyamoto '02 and Jodi Maeda '02 perform a traditional
hula at the Hawaii Club's luau.
"I am grateful for the work
that the Commission on Campus Climate has done to define a course
toward a more concordant atmosphere on campus," the president
said. "Now it is up to all of us to accept their challenge."
Many who have already taken that
challenge are excited about the direction PLU is headed.
"It's been a really good year
in terms of people taking a stand," said LeAnn Jones '02,
who was ASPLU's diversity director last year and is active in
many issues on campus. "There have been really solid programs
this year in getting the message of diversity out. Everyone's
kind of stepping it up a little bit."
Jones, who attended a Lutheran high
school in Portland, Ore., and graduated with only 28 people, knew
what it was like to be in the racial minority. But she was still
surprised when she arrived to find that most of the 80-100 African
American students she had been told attend PLU were older students
who don't live on campus.
Melanie Melendrez '01 performs a one-woman acting scene
at the Hispanic Night dinner sponsored by the Diversity
"I didn't have anyone to really
connect with," she said. "There are some times you just
don't feel like you fit."
Retaining minority students through
graduation is an important goal. A few African American students
did not return to PLU for second semester last year. Kraig said
she urges ambivalent or disillusioned students to stay, to make
"I tell them, the only way it's
going to change is if you are here," Kraig said.
Jones said she has seen the commitment,
and she tells prospective students of color to take a chance at
"If you want to be lackadaisical
and just fit it, this isn't the place for you. But if you want
something to challenge you, if you want a great faculty and opportunities
for leadership, if you want a place that will grow and change
and you can see that growth, then PLU's the place for you."
Continuing to foster the environment
that creates growth and encourages inclusiveness will benefit
the whole PLU community.
"We're called to prepare people
to function in a world that is increasingly diverse, and that
means we need to expose students to that," President Anderson
said "Our campus world needs to be a diverse place in order
to carry out its educational task. I think we do a pretty good
job of that."
Frey '95 is the associate director multicultural affairs.
She has worked to strengthen on-campus student clubs and
programming and helped win approval for the new Diversity