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Like a proper Catholic school-boy, Villanova University has played it safe for far too long. Coddling its image, stepping in line with the status quo, and holding its tongue, it has created an institution of learning, but Villanova has yet to IGNITE CHANGE. This school needs more than a slogan to awaken the ember of self-awareness, individuality and activity within its student body. It needs diversity, it needs venues for free-spiritedness and it needs to address the discontent of the minority of its students.

I don’t think anyone will protest the idea that diversity is where change begins. How else do we understand our place in this world if we do not understand others to have a different place? A student body with different experiences, thoughts and ways of expression is a student body that learns to question and ultimately learns to think. Unfortunately, Villanova has been passive about our festering diversity issue despite claiming that it fosters “academic excellence” by creating a “diverse community of scholars.”

To be fair, Villanova has many obstacles that affect its ability to foster diversity. Foremost is the fact that it is a Roman Catholic institution.  This, no doubt, makes it challenging for Villanova to attract religious variety (outside of Christian denomination). But more than that, it is no secret that the majority of Roman Catholics tend to be white. Add to this the understanding that we are a regional university (drawing about 70 percent of our students from the northeast), and our unattractive label, Vanilla-Nova, might as well be a tattoo. I would comment on wealth, but given the absence of statistics, I think it would be dangerous to comment solely on student clothing, cars and trips to Campus Corner. What we do know is that Villanova’s tuition is exorbitant—more evidence that it has chosen the path of the many, rather than blazing its own path of change.

The effect of our seemingly uniform school is that Villanova ceases to be able to challenge its students in a substantial way. According to Unigo, a college-resource website, Villanova’s students rated its campus as being a four out of 10 for arts and culture, a five for political activity, and a six for intellectual life. This is compared to being a seven for alcohol use and an eight for public safety. A student named Austin summed up the Villanova experience as, “Easy transition for those who want to stay the same as they already are when they arrive,”

But I wouldn’t chalk up this extinguishment of change exclusively to lack of diversity. Villanova has also been weak at tapping the free spirit of its students. I mean, let’s be honest. It’s safe to force parties off campus and to invest in a campus that looks nice—too nice to corrupt with student art-work, student protests and clothing that wasn’t purchased at King of Prussia.  Additionally, why should Villanova invest in a student recreation center that actually has functional ping-pong and billiard tables? It’s tucked away, out-of-sight.

Plus, students should be studying and doing community service so that they interact with people of different backgrounds at some point in their lives. Don’t even push your luck with a music program. I’m sure someone who wants to learn piano will be fine with settling for a church vocal group or the marching band.

The bottom line is that Villanova’s playing it safe has led students and outsiders alike to view the school as boring. Probably one of the more interesting events on campus, a performance workshop held by gay artist Tim Miller, was cancelled due to alumni protest. Remember students, you can ignite change as long as it doesn’t affect the bottom line or your reputation!

The good news is that we have a growing, vocal minority on campus even if Villanova is hard of hearing. There are people who want to see indie bands filling our auditoriums with Philadelphia flavor instead of big-name-artist-ballyhoo. There are atheists and Buddhists who would like to see clubs founded on a mutual respect for philosophy and reason. There are even environmentalists who want Villanova to move past the superficiality of green-roofs and fancy toilets—people who want to actually see recycling bins in every classroom. And don’t forget the students who aren’t part of a church group or a fraternity or a service organization. These people need their place, and they don’t want to dish out money going to the bars or underground parties. Maybe they want a 1960’s dance party or a game of Humans vs. Zombies.

The Villanova minority needs a face. They can only achieve this status if we dedicate ourselves to more diversity and expression. What is a group of two Pacific-Islanders or a mottled collection of spiritual wanderers? How can we learn from them and understand them if they are so few and so limited?

Villanova, there is so much you offer us. I dare say our teachers are the best in the country. But goddamnit, let’s ignite some change!

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6 thoughts on “Lack of diversity noticed by students

  1. Let me offer that one of the roots of this problem is Alumni giving, the level of which is nonexistent for most. The lack of a large endowment means that Villanova derives substantially-all of its annual operating budget from tuition and fees — which means that they need substantially-all of its students to be paying for their education through one means or another (parental wealth, loans, federal money, etc.), which leaves less room for underprivileged students and true diversity.

    It isn’t the only part of the problem, of course.

    Geographic diversity may be as important as ethnic and class diversity as well, but Villanova has been afraid to grow into a true national university. The Augustinians who run the university either prefer or foster growth-at-a-snails-pace over making the big leaps and bounds that would grow the brand name and reach of Villanova University — an expansion of research and graduate programs at the Ph.D. level is one example, another was the FBS football non-decision that resulted from certain administrator’s inability to make a tough decision.

    Villanova is risk averse, but there is little opportunity to ignite change from your panic room. You need to take chances.

    …and maybe if the University had the type of vision and leadership it takes to make those big moves, the alumni would be inspired and excited enough to open their wallets.

  2. While I found the general affluence of the student body to be a detracting factor during my time at Villanova, I agree that your sweeping assertion based on superficial “data” is dangerous.

    “I would comment on wealth, but given the absence of statistics, I think it would be dangerous to comment solely on student clothing, cars and trips to Campus Corner. What we do know is that Villanova’s tuition is exorbitant—more evidence that it has chosen the path of the many, rather than blazing its own path of change.”

    I am concerned that your Villanova education must be failing you if you if even the most cursory search for financial statistics does not bear fruit. Whether through the Villanova website, or the US News link below, some quick and simple statistics are readily available to enlighten you and reveal that nearly 50% of undergraduate Villanovans receive financial aid.

    http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/villanova-university-3388

    The presence of student protests and indie music is not the surefire cure for what you diagnose as a lack of diversity or change. Self expression is every student’s right, hopefully manifesting itself in 7000 different ways. However, expecting Villanova to offer the same magnitude of university-sanctioned artistic, recreational and cultural options as a large state school is naive – the university simply lacks the resources to do so. Frankly, until I read this article, I considered the “Ignite Change” tagline to be relatively pointless. I had taken it for granted that this was already at the heart of each Villanovan’s choice in university. If you feel there are elements that would enhance the Villanova experience, please recognize that each individual is responsible for igniting change. Actions always speak louder than words.

  3. The Roman Catholic Church, in America and around the world, is a very diverse body. That Villanova, as a Catholic school, attracts Catholics in no way would imply a lack of diversity. If the school did indeed attract students representative of the Church, there would be many more Latino students. The financial issues mentioned by RelativelyYoungAlumnus account for the lack of diversity of why the post speaks.

  4. The fact that the school is Catholic has absolutely no bearing on the lack of diversity. Most Blacks and Hispanics in the United States have been historically Christians anyway. I find that comment to be inaccurate and offensive. Have you ever traveled into Philly and actually talked to the Black inner city high school students?? They would LOOVVVEEE to attend Villanova. Judging by your article my assumption is no. The expensive cost of our university and the academic rigor of the school are two of the primary reason why we lack diversity. Many of the inner city schools have not prepared their students to attend Villanova. Even the students at the top of their class are often not pushed to apply to competitive private schools. The top students often end up settling for a state school.

  5. Honestly, I’m so sick of hearing the “lack of diversity” argument. It’s been pointed out, noted etc. Igniting change doesn’t begin with diversity, it begins with your own self. Disappointed with the lack of protests? Then protest something! You don’t like wearing clothes from King of Prussia? Sperry’s aren’t your thing? That’s fine, don’t wear them! I don’t, and I have never felt out of place or scorned from the society that is Villanova. This article was stereotypical and fairly ignorant- “But more than that, it is no secret that the majority of Roman Catholics tend to be white.” I’m sorry but I believe you’re ignoring a little continent called South America? Actually, I’m Catholic AND Latin, go figure! Catholicism has nothing to do with a lack of diversity, spend a day at the Vatican, take a look around and you’ll see that. It also has nothing to to with an inhibition to ignite change. This article is representative of the small-minded, blame assigning thinking that does actually prevent change.

  6. You obviously are misinterpreting Augustinian values. Villanova ignites change by upholding traditional values which have no room in the modern world. When over half of America is celebrating gays, I applaud Villanova for not letting its community corrupt and pervert its own nature. Furthermore, to claim that its religious affiliation to be a hindrance to diversity is illogical because Catholicism is synonymous with universal. However, the university has not been upholding and defending its own faith and instead have been catering to pop culture enthusiasts such as yourself. It’s bad enough that Villanova has a theology teacher who doesn’t even believe in the Resurrection. If you want the “diversity” you describe, go to a state school. Though as a Catholic, Latino coming from the Lower East Side of New York, I graduated from Villanova with more Latino/Hispanic, South Asian, atheist, Buddhist, and Muslim, friends than white, christian friends.

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