Last fall, I had the privilege of bringing some of my ENG 101 students to a seminar with Dr. Rupert Nacoste. His presentation, entitled, “Respect Starts with Me–How to Handle Neo-Diversity Anxiety” encapsulated for students some of the key points in his book, Taking on Diversity: How We Can Move from Anxiety to Respect. (I highly recommend this book, by the way!)
Dr. Nacoste points out that we are in a time of vast social change, and notes that change tends to make people nervous. Often we don’t know how to deal with situations or with folks who are different than we are; yet, we are thrust into these diverse situations every day–especially in the academic world. His solution to a very complex situation is actually very simple, something that perhaps we learned in kindergarten once upon a time–kindness. Every human being should be treated with respect and dignity. It’s ok to acknowledge our differences; we don’t all have to look alike, think alike, etc. But we do have to exercise kindness at all times.
As faculty, it’s important to note that each of our students comes to our classrooms with different experiences that have shaped them as people and have informed their ideas about the world around them. We have an amazing opportunity and grave responsibility to model kindness as we accept students where they are and show them how to converse with others of different backgrounds and opinions with kindness and respect.