Cheney Free Press Editorial
In Our Opinion
Eastern Washington University has been making a push for diversity since 2002. It's working. More minority groups are gaining recognition on campus.
More are interested in visiting campus (there's been an increase in tours from minority-rich cities this year). With more attention to cultural identity and unity, we hope that a more diverse population will, in time, take root both at EWU and Cheney.
Such a change would bring more perspectives, talents, and cultures to the region, hopefully enticing even more diverse populations to stay. This could boost the cultural and economic health of our region.
There are, of course, some facts to consider. Creating a more inclusive campus environment doesn't always guarantee unity or learning between minorities. Or that people will want to stay in the region.
Do we know Friday night parties will become more mixed? Do we know that people will begin to date inter-racially? Will out-of-state students really settle here after graduation?
Maybe. However, a continued thrust toward diversity could up the chances of these things happening.
According to Michelle Whittingham, the EWU associated vice president of enrollment eervices, the university is already reaping a harvest. There were more student tours from minority-rich cities like Tonasket and Wenatchee this year. She says Eastern is helping advertise minority-focused events more often these days. This years Hawaiian Luau was a hit. So was the Black Student Union's block party.
On May 19, the city and the university are hosting the Cheney Multicultural Festival where traditional dances from around the world will be performed by area dance groups.
Is all of that going to affect Cheney and beyond, though? In the fall of 2005, EWU's state supported minority population was 14.87 percent. In 2000, Spokane County's workforce minority was approximately 8.9 percent. True, there is a five year gap between these stats, but one can see that EWU has a significantly higher minority percentage than the surrounding area.
This must have some impact. The diverse corners of an entity that draws in almost 10,000 people every year are going to affect the area. A portion of out-of-state students do settle in Cheney and Spokane after graduation. Local kids often skedaddle for a number of years after high school; some do return.
If they do, more diverse perspectives will take hold in Cheney. If more minorities live here, they can find jobs within local businesses and hopefully, a voice. Cheney would be looking at a richer, more diverse, and more experienced city.
And one thing is for certain.
EWU is doing a good job promoting diversity. Way to go, Eastern. If they continue to do so, perhaps this effort will have a lasting impact on the region's minority population and acceptance between students. We hope it will.