A Different Mirror

Helping the Moravian community look critically at itself.

We are in a multiracial, multicultural, multi-ethnic society, with multiple faith affiliations,” says Sharon Brown, director of institutional diversity and multi-cultural affairs. “And our job is to prepare men and women to go out into the world.”

“If you look at our mission statement,” says Jon Conrad, director of human resources, “we’re probably not meeting it as well as we could and should.”

Let’s face it: Moravian is a white-bread campus. Though not as monochromatic as it used to be, with African, African-American and Latino faculty and the visible presence of international students in leadership roles, the campus still has a largely homogeneous population.

That is something the College leadership, from the Board of Trustees to President Rokke, would like to change. A 1997 task force charged with drafting a set of strategic goals and initiatives placed a more diverse campus high among its priorities. Brown was hired from Lehigh University to head the Office of Multi-cultural Affairs, whose title recently changed to reflect its expanded scope.

Colleges and universities have been talking about more inclusive campus communities since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But talk is one thing, change another. Faculties have been slow to alter their basic makeup, and the effort to diversify student bodies has raised divisive questions about the recruitment and treatment of minority students.

“We’re really not any different from any other institution that’s been grappling with these issues for the last 20 to 30 years,” Brown says.

The first phase in Moravian’s self-exploration has been workshops for the staff, from maintenance crews to senior administrators. President Rokke and senior staff volunteered to be first, and the rest of the staff met in mixed groups for half-day sessions in February and March.

These were led by staff volunteers, and the format was one that has worked at similar institutions, according to Brown. “It was based on the terms of our own resources,” she says.

Each session began with an icebreaker and included discussion about Moravian’s population in relation to the surrounding community of the Lehigh Valley, from which it draws a substantial portion of its enrollment.

The core of the sessions was “The Eye of the Storm,” a video about the Iowa blue eyes/brown eyes experiment, in which a third grade schoolteacher, trying to help children understand the nature of prejudice, grouped them by eye color and bestowed privileges on some while denying them to others.

“The video allowed people to see how quickly and easily a group of kids could take something very arbitrary and wrap their arms around it,” said Conrad. “The real shock was how quickly [being] the ‘inferior’ group negatively affected their perception of themselves.”

The round of training that just ended is the first of two for staff. Follow-up sessions are scheduled for next fall, when the faculty also will participate in workshops tailored for them. Both Brown and Conrad acknowledge that three hours of discussion among staff members who have little input into hiring, admissions, or faculty recruitment will not change the face of Moravian.

“I was out to make the employees aware of diversity in its widest spectrum,” Conrad said.

“There’s always something new to learn,” Brown said, “and to think outside of that which we know. Our aim is to get people to think about what we do and how we act.”

‘The majority of the folks at Moravian are kind, caring, and fair-minded people who would never knowingly hurt another person’s feelings. However, we do ourselves a disservice by surrounding ourselves with people who look, act, think, and talk just like us. . . . Moravian needs to look more like the real world, and we need everyone on campus to help us move in that direction.’

—Anne Reid,
College treasurer
diversity session leader

April 9, 2002

A Different Mirror
Diversity training helps Moravian community take a critical look at itself.
In Focus
Profile of photographer-in-residence Jeffrey Hurwitz.
Not Just Desserts
Dessert Theater benefits music department.
Calendar of campus events.
Faculty/staff achievements.
Going to the Dogs
"Fun walk" for greyhound rescue program.