Editor, Daily Nexus,
Much of the dialogue that has taken place on the Nexus’s opinion page over the past couple weeks has centered around diversity and its effects on institutions of higher learning. Arguments in favor of promoting diversity have mainly centered on the morality of it: That a college education is a right, not a privilege and that people from all walks of life deserve that opportunity.
These are good arguments, but I think that another issue worth addressing is an empirical one: Does diversity actually improve our institution as a whole? A recent study done by sociologist Cedric Herring of the University of Illinois in Chicago, looked at diversity levels in 250 different businesses, which ranged from 10 employee restaurants to multi-national corporations. Herring found that more diverse companies have more customers, a larger share of their markets and greater profitability. Upon further analysis of the data, he found a linear relationship between diversity and business success. His findings were reported in the Washington Post and National Public Radio.
The reason for this correlation remains unclear, but Human Behavior Columnist for the Washington Post Shankar Vedantam theorizes that not only does diversity bring multiple viewpoints to the table, but it also affects our cognitive processes as a whole. His primary example is that of trial juries. It’s no coincidence that all white juries reach different conclusions than more diverse juries. This change in cognitive thought might be the reason for a diverse business’s success.
The means to reach a healthy level of diversity on campus will remain a subject of contention, but promoting this diversity doesn’t just help people of color. It helps everybody.