Recognizing a dire need for racial and cultural education, some Christian colleges are hiring “diversity advocates” to help students break away from the mindset permeating the typically white evangelical communities they grew up in. That would normally be a welcome addition to campus — anything that helps expand students’ understanding of the world.
But according to Liam Adams at Christianity Today, their presence — and purpose — on campus is not always well received by students or faculty, who see their work as catering to the Woke Left (i.e. heresy).
About 50 percent of evangelical institutions associated with the Council of Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) have a diversity advocate or someone with a title like “chief diversity officer,” according to CCCU spokeswoman Greta Hays.
Yet many diversity officers struggle with discouragement, fatigue, and burnout. They often struggle to get buy-in from colleagues and feel they were hired to make a problem go away, rather than to start the long, difficult work of cultural transformation.
Most of these schools have a population that is mostly white, where it’s not uncommon to think that racism is either an overblown problem or something that only Jesus can fix. These diversity advocates can push administrators to hire professors outside the usual pipelines, recruit students who don’t fit the traditional mold (while still practicing the school’s version of Christianity), and help the campus come to grips with issues all of us are reckoning with right now. There’s never been a more urgent need for people in these positions — especially on Christian campuses, given how many white evangelicals are either ignorant of or part of these problems.
But unless there’s buy-in from people in power, those advocates can’t do all the work alone.
At some schools, change really started to happen when the diversity advocate had a senior position and was supported by other high-ranking officers who were not white. “I don’t know that diversity officers are going to be a place of change. It’s really when we start hiring presidents and provosts of color,” [George Fox University’s chief diversity officer Rebecca] Hernandez said.
Warner Pacific University president Brian Johnson, who is one of two African American presidents in the CCCU, said he agrees.
“I find that the most significant ways and places to transform the culture when it comes to the diversity of an institution is to make significant hires of African Americans, minorities, and Hispanics in substantive roles,” he said.
These are all steps in the right direction. Whatever you think of Christian colleges, it’s no secret that white evangelicals tend to oppose progressive values more than any other religious group. Unless people within those communities can push for change — even when it’s slow and frustrating — we won’t see real moves to reconcile with racial injustice.
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