President’s Column: Why diversity matters at MSU

“I note the obvious differences

in the human family.

I note the obvious differences

between each sort and type,

but we are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.”

Maya Angelou, The Human Family


With the beautiful change of colors of the fall season, this week we celebrate Homecoming at MSU — always an exciting time of memories and celebrations on our campus. Homecoming activities are great fun, and a good way to learn about MSU’s history and  traditions. If you see alumni and their families walking around campus, would you please welcome them back home?

Our alumni will be coming back to a campus that is very different from the days when they made Montana State their university of choice. The differences include new world-class academic programs, more buildings, a change in total number of students enrolled, a larger freshman class and, of great importance, today MSU has the most diverse demographics in our history.

Diversity is vitally important at Montana State University. MSU is committed to fostering diversity in race, gender identity, age, language, socioeconomic status, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation and geographical background.  Your university is dedicated to creating an inclusive community that embraces a rich mix in the composition of its student body, staff and faculty. Awareness around issues of diversity are appreciated and valued at MSU as essential aspects of the campus community at every level and in every sector of the campus.

There have been some who have asked — Why is diversity important and why are we having this conversation now? There are important reasons that we need to take into consideration:

We know supporting diverse populations creates a culture of intellectual and personal growth for all. We know that learning is enhanced when topics are examined from diverse perspectives and because individuals possess unique outlooks that reflect the world around us.

Diversity also reflects the reality of our nation today. Our country has evolved into a richly diverse population in terms of gender identity, class, race, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity. Therefore, having a diverse population on campus reflects our national reality and prepares our students for the world they will experience following graduation.

There is also a historical reason for supporting diversity. As you know, MSU is a land-grant university. From their beginnings, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862, the establishment of land-grant institutions was a key shift in a paradigm that launched the philosophy of diversity in our culture.

Before land-grant institutions were established, universities were mostly reserved for people of wealth and means, predominantly male. The Morrill Act opened the doors of higher education to the sons and daughters of the working families of America. Thanks to the stroke of President’s Lincoln’s pen, the face of our universities was changed forever. It is one of the most radical social experiments in modern history and one that truly galvanized American democracy.

This is particularly pertinent to those of us in Montana. Thanks to congressional legislation passed in 1994 — and to a committee that was chaired by the late Michael Malone, then president of MSU — the third Land-Grant Act benefitted tribal colleges. Montana now has eight land-grant campuses, the largest number of any state.

So, you see, support for diversity is in MSU’s DNA.

I invite you to participate in the interesting presentations scheduled for this year’s American Indian Heritage Day celebration at MSU tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 23. This year’s activities focus on the intellectual and scholarly contributions of MSU’s Native faculty and students.

While MSU has made great strides in supporting diversity, we will continue to work to advance the ideals of human worth and dignity for all by facilitating open discussion, supporting resolution of conflict and encouraging ongoing examination of difference.  

We are proud to be Montana State: the colors of autumn might be changing, but our values are not.

I’ll see you at Homecoming, Bobcats.

  • I am a former alt right/white nationalist. I started breaking away from that life a couple years ago before I transferred to MSU from Flathead Valley. I was actually very well-known. ‘Infamous’ if you will.

    A big reason I got involved in that world was because of my religion. I’m an Odinist.. and always was generally folkish. Now, there is a difference between being folkish and being racist. But when you get caught up in that movement, lines get blurred. Even with those blurred lines, and me getting caught up in the sheer negativity of it all.. I spent most of my years in that movement opposing my “allies” on many things.

    These days I am semi-out as LGBT, though as a libertarian…and Odinist (which is generally a very traditionalist religion)… I am still not typical even then.

    Recently there were alt right flyers posted at the University of Montana.

    Hopefully something that doesn’t happen here. But if it ever does, I will always be available if people have questions about those people.