Educate to eradicate hate

Illustration by Liz Coffee
Illustration by Liz Coffee

Discrimination is an ugly word.
College campuses’ pamphlets and websites don’t promote or advertise it, just the opposite in fact. Chico State’s own homepage is filled with images of women and men who look very much varied from one another but still united under the banner of a shared web address.
To anyone looking in, Chico State would appear to be an institution that values inclusiveness and diversity. Maybe this college town looks like a place where anyone would be welcomed.
Of course first impressions can be deceiving.
This town is living 40 years in the past, said Paul Lopez, one of Chico State’s own sociology professors. He was speaking of the traditional views held by many of the town’s citizens on sex and gender roles.
“It was a really scary moment,” said Kory Masen, a junior Chico State student, describing his own experience facing both physical and verbal abuse on campus because he identifies as a transgender queer man of color.
To think that these statements are isolated notions or incidents is naive. Stories from students feeling afraid because of the words and actions of others on campus don’t speak of acceptance.
But what can be done to change such injustices, to make faculty proud and students feel safer? Education seems like an obvious answer for an institution of higher learning.
But the problem with events that seek to educate students on issues of diversity is that those who attend are already informed and care.
The eager faces in the audiences of these kinds of voluntary functions are not the same ones menacing others because of perceived differences.
If this issue is important and if there is to be a change, education should be part of every student’s curriculum. Incoming first-year students are already required to take online courses on the dangers of alcohol.
An online course similar to AlcoholEdu, but with a focus on diversity and the ills of discrimination, would be a great approach to educating incoming college students.
These are people destined to be future leaders — shouldn’t they be tolerant and accepting?

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