By Kayleigh Davies ’25 (DCI Fellow)
Diversity is the practice of including and involving people from a range of different backgrounds, be they social, ethnic, socioeconomic, or cultural. It drives creativity and enhances innovation; this is not a foreign concept to us. Allowing people to learn directly from each other ensures that a functioning community is established, wherein differences can coexist and standard stereotypes are dispelled.
Davidson College as an institution is not exempt from this line of thinking. Its commitment to diversity is explained through a series of statements on its website: “Davidson College believes fundamentally in the dignity and worth of every human being, and we are committed to assisting students in developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service. Cultivating a broadly diverse community is crucial to our educational mission and purpose.”
Davidson College is home to a student body representing 50 states and 46 countries. Of the 1,973 students enrolled, 28% are domestic students of color, and 8% are international students. However, it is not enough to simply create a space where a diverse population exists, especially one as large as 2,000 people. In order for diversity to have the desired effect, we must ensure that measures are being taken to encourage the exposure of differences.
Similarity/attraction theory states that humans are more attracted to those they view as similar to themselves, rather than dissimilar. Such an attraction is not an inherently negative trait, but there are indisputable drawbacks to this natural inclination. There is a limit to what one can learn from someone similar to themselves.
It is undeniable that Davidson College’s community sometimes suffers from the downsides of our tendency to be attracted to those similar to ourselves. So while the college is brimming with educated students eager to deliberate on a variety of contentious issues, the productivity of the conversations are hindered by the similarities shared between the groups students find themselves in.
DCI makes a space on this campus where the diversity present is made visible. I was excited to be presented with the opportunity of becoming a DCI Fellow, but surprised when I recognized only a handful of names on the list of other student fellows. I had lived in the same building as some of these students, studied in the same places, made conversation with their roommates, all with their existence unbeknownst to me. As a group of students, we all applied to become DCI Fellows because we were attracted to the idea of deliberation, but every one of us has a different understanding of that term.
Something I have learned during the progression of our D Teams is that differences are what drive our conversations. No two people can hold a discussion if the premise is eternal agreement; the hesitation to disagree feeds awkward silences like no other. Breaking down our viewpoints to the specific components that create them often reveals even minor differences that fuel discourse, and thus amplify the productivity of our conversations.