When I was in college, I saved money by purchasing used textbooks. Anyone who has bought a used textbook from the internet knows it can be quite the gamble. Sometimes the book is in wonderful condition and other times the binding is hanging on by a thread, but they will both have something in common, highlighting.
I’ve never understood the infatuation with greasing up a textbook. It only takes two or three owners before the book is covered in enough neon color to rival the Las Vegas strip. The individually highlighted words are so distracting that the comprehensive lesson ends up being completely obscured.
Recently, 28 Idaho politicians wrote a letter addressed to Boise State University expressing their concern over this practice. It wasn’t penned to condemn those who write in margins or don’t use a ruler when underlining an important passage, which should warrant its own letter, but rather it took aim at a different type of highlighting. The letter discussed the expenses of encouraging and celebrating diversity.
The letter claims that too many programs have been created in the name of promoting diversity which end up sapping the budget and inflating tuition. Rising tuition costs are a hot button topic on their own, and likely a sticking point of the upcoming presidential election. But the letter was more personal than just a general jab at being able to pay back loans. It claimed that increasing tuition was not the ‘Idaho way’ because it makes college so expensive that almost no one can afford to attend, let alone the underrepresented groups who the university programs are trying to target.
It is very important to avoid conflating not wanting to raise tuition and not wanting to promote diversity. Many will read the letter and decide that these politicians are anti-diversity without gleaning their true intent. Increasing tuition is antithetical to promoting diversity. The politicians are not anti-diversity, they are pro-diversity, and the letter calls out the hypocritical university spending which disadvantages the exact group of people it is claiming to help. They even went so far as to name a few of the programs they disagreed with like specific graduation ceremonies for diverse students.
Imagine a marathon. For most of us, completing the race is impressive and definitely exceeds the ability of the average person who huffs and puffs on their way to the refrigerator. The point is, YOU RAN A MARATHON! The achievement speaks for itself. For the runner trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon or the Olympics celebrating means little, but to the car crash survivor who not only regained the ability to walk but completed a marathon, the achievement represents something much more meaningful. What that person did is arguably more impressive than setting the record pace.
The race organizers couldn’t possibly set up a podium for every type of runner and every situation they’ve overcome. The celebration is left to the individual so that it can mirror their personal achievement. Diverse graduation ceremonies are an individual podium that showcase differences and dilute personal stories of accomplishment while simultaneously making it more difficult for others of that group to achieve college entrance because it raises the cost of tuition.
Each person who owned a textbook before me probably thought they were helping by highlighting the pages. These diversity promoting programs were all started with good intentions, but the ends are not mirroring the means. The ends are getting more people from diverse backgrounds graduated. Highlighting their differences with specific programs and initiatives divides them from the rest of the campus into what essentially becomes an educational barrio because they lose interaction with the main student body.
The lesson the textbook is trying to teach us is that bringing our differences together creates the best environment for learning and success. When highlighting makes it impossible to read that message, the benefit is lost and students can’t afford to attend when you require them to cover the cost of the highlighter and buy their own textbook.
The letter’s message should be evaluated by its truthfulness. If these programs are responsible for significantly raising tuition and highlighting differences segregates students, then a new approach is necessary. College teaches you to critically analyze, not hide from inconvenient truths you don’t agree with.
As a middle child, Carly Roes has a fine-tuned sense of justice. A mother of two and master of none, she enjoys her experience one day at a time.