How can Study Abroad not be “diverse”?

The Duke Chronicle has a hand-wringing column today about a “gap in diversity” in Study Abroad:

This semester 475 students are studying abroad-the most in University history.

But statistical trends over the past four years suggest about 330 of those students are white, 27 are black and 43 are Asian or Asian American.

A gap in diversity? I think it’s about time universities just dropped their “diversity” euphemism and say what they mean. It’s a bit silly to use “diverse” to describe a single program, but allowing for use in academe’s sense (valuing and respecting cultural difference and so forth), it’s ridiculous to say that Study Abroad — the program where students study in foreign cultures — isn’t “diverse.” Look, if learning in a foreign land doesn’t make you “aware” and help you “appreciate diversity,” then what, pray tell, will?

And just in case that’s not ridiculous enough, then you have university officials describe students this way:

Margaret Riley, associate dean for study abroad and director of the Office of Study Abroad, said she recognizes the discrepancy, and her office is working to correct it.

“We work actively to recruit a diverse pool,” she said. “We’ve been in touch with the [Multicultural Center]. We’ve done special panels and special focus groups with the African-American Mentoring Program. We have pictures of diverse students in our brochures.” …

It is unclear why Asian students are underrepresented, she said, offering several possible reasons for the low numbers among black students.

“There’s a high percentage of diverse students who are basketball and football players,” she said. “With all of their practices, their schedule just doesn’t permit it.”

You get that? By “diverse students” she doesn’t mean “a variety of students” — she means black students. Look at the antecedents. At Duke, a black student is a “diverse student.” This is at one of the most prestigious universities in the United States of America.

Jon Sanders / Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...