The word ‘university’ is a noun of Latin origin that reflects the idea of universality, in other words the creation of one’s own universe. Over the course of time its meaning has been used to define any community considered in its collective aspect.
The word ‘diversity’, for its part, is a noun that makes reference to variety, plurality, difference, complexity, multiplicity, heterogeneity and disparity, which is not the same in objects and elements. Both words together speak to us of a different universe, complex and heterogeneous. And it is precisely this idea that underlies references to diversity in society and in the classroom.
Diversity has many faces, but the ones it shows us and that make up the reality of our classrooms can be identified, day by day, in functional, cultural, sexual, gender and age aspects.
The universe is rich and complex, and all the elements that form it carry out a function that contributes to the functioning of the whole. It’s unimaginable to judge or discriminate against any of them. In the same way, the University is made up of teachers, non-teachers and students who represent different ways of life, and each one of them plays a necessary role in the functioning of the whole. Thus when we talk about diversity we mean that a human being must accept any difference, just like his own differences, and in no way stigmatize it or identify it as alien. And that everyone in the whole university community should be able to carry out their function in the same conditions as other people, without being judged, discriminated against or encountering obstacles for their intellectual development.
Have we asked ourselves if our students, professors, or non-teaching personnel –from other cultures or with other sexual options or with functional diversity– are able to carry out their tasks normally, or, on the contrary, do they suffer some kind of impediment?
To speak of diversity is to speak of human rights of the first order, but it is also to speak of reality. Indeed, UNESCO adopted the legal framework of cultural diversity in November of 2001 by means of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, whose Article 4 affirms that the defense of diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable from the dignity of the person, and manifests itself in the commitment to defending rights and liberties, whose scope must not be limited. Nevertheless, and paradoxically, these same rights can be violated in our classrooms. And I say this because I have witnessed firsthand the suffering of an LGBT student who, while he was accepted by his parents, was not accepted by his own classmates. For this reason it is also necessary to educate about diversity and human quality, and all of us who work in the university should accept this and promote the inclusion of different groups in a natural way, so that they can feel comfortable and proud of being the way they are –or at least not feel, in any case, inferior just because they are different.
Our university is committed to society and cannot help but be inclusive, which means that, in addition to providing quality teaching, it accepts the commitment to promoting ethical and democratic values. Indeed, progress that is not humane cannot be considered true progress.
We know that respect is the beginning of coexistence and peace, and that from the University it is only possible to serve diversity one way: leading by example. So let us make such example our primary way of teaching, and let us be a point of reference for enrichment, one that provides diversity and progress and human development.