Westmont Magazine For All People
One of the pleasures of this job is getting to represent the college in all kinds of venues. Recently, I spoke to a group — I won’t tell you who — and let them know about the incredible progress Westmont is making on nearly all fronts. By way of example, I told them that this year’s entering class is the most diverse in Westmont’s history, with ethnic students comprising nearly 24 percent of the class. That’s a jump by 8 or 9 percent over last year, and it is coupled by a jump in SATs and GPAs, as well. This is possible, in part, because applications overall increased by nearly 20 percent. It’s a pretty nice story.
But after the meeting, one individual pulled me aside and asked about the numbers. Actually, that’s not the way to say it, because he was really interested in the meaning of the word “diversity.” And his rather blunt question was, “Why is diversity such a big deal? And what does that have to do with being a Christian liberal arts college?”
When someone asks a question like that, I usually follow it up with a question of my own. And that resulted in a very interesting story of a man who works in a very different environment where the word diversity means quotas. In fact, he is driven to meet certain diversity goals on a regular basis, and no one quite knows why. It’s the politically correct thing to do, he assumes. It has left him perplexed at times and more than a little frustrated. And it seems a long way from the standard of justice and fair play that he learned as a child.
So why do we prize diversity at Westmont? And what do we mean by it? In the first place, Westmont is not a PC school, it’s a JC school. Jesus Christ is preeminent in all things, as our motto says. And that’s the standard by which we set every one of our policies. Thus, when we make our decisions about whom to admit in the entering class, we’re asking first and foremost: which students can most profit by a high-quality liberal arts education rooted in Christ? What will they bring to the table in terms of their own gifts and background? And what potential do they have to take advantage of this learning community? In other words, we’re crafting a class, looking for those students who have the range of capacities and experiences to make them good learners and teachers in the context of a Christian academic community.
Frankly, the color of one’s skin is not the point here. A good education is. And if that’s the case, then we’re going to want a rich mixture of students to prepare our graduates for the rich mixture of people that God has put into this world. God made us diverse — that’s the point. My assumption is that He knew what He was doing. It turns out, moreover, that He made His Church diverse as well, bringing in people from every nation and every tribe, with very different gifts and experiences, and employing that variety for our benefit and His glory.
In fact, the really odd thing is that we have to defend the goal of diversity in these times. It’s odd, because it makes such sense from a biblical perspective. But it’s necessary because we live in times of rampant relativism, where people pursue diversity not for the sake of truth and justice, but because truth is nowhere to be found.
And so it is right for us to guard ourselves against a morphed gospel and a reversal of means and ends. But it is equally important for us to remember the true gospel, which is good tidings of great joy for all people. All people. That has been at the heart of Westmont’s mission from day one. And it had better be there on the final day, as well. Thanks be to God.