PLNU partnered with Urban League to host their annual Equal Opportunity Day (EOD) and Diversity Summit Sept. 20 at Liberty Station.
Speakers and discussion forums promoted equality in education and business, and discussed topics such as internships, healthcare, immigration, and education systems. Interim mayor Todd Gloria and democratic candidate Nathan Fletcher attended and participated in the event, along with leaders in local schools and businesses and several city council members.
The event gave PLNU some positive exposure in the community. Executive Director of Extended Studies Jeanne promoted the new Extended Studies Learning Series in the event, as well as PLNU as a whole.
“It provided us with name recognition, and it showed us supporting diversity,” Cochran said. “It gave us some opportunities to promote our programming.”
This is the first time a college campus has hosted the EOD, according to PLNU’s Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Jeffrey Carr, who served as Chair for the event.
“[Urban League] is an old, prestigious organization,” he said. “I’m glad Point Loma is a school they can depend on to accomplish their goals in their mission. It’s quite a feather in the hat of Point Loma that we’re on their radar.”
The National Urban League is “the nation’s oldest and largest community-based movement devoted to empowering African Americans and other underserved populations to enter and sustain economic and social mainstream” (sdul.org). Locally, the Urban League of San Diego County promotes that mission by advocating for equality and providing services in housing, workforce skills, education and health. They also host the EOD event yearly.
Carr chose education as the event’s theme, and aspects of equity were examined through that focus. Ray King, president and CEO of Urban League, shared his vision for the event.
“Our goal here is to look at education and see how it affects workforce success,” King said. “We want to motivate the community to get engaged in quality education. Every student should have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of where they live or what their father does for a living, but depending on their ability to learn.”
The day included speakers, breakout sessions, and an awards luncheon, where several businesses were presented with Whitney M. Young awards for valuing equity in education. It ended with a community “Call to Action” where participants discussed implementing ideas into society.
According to PLNU’s 2012-2013 common data set, approximately 66 percent of degree-seeking undergraduate students are “white, non-Hispanic.” In comparison, BiolaUniversity and AzusaPacificUniversity students are about 56 percent and 52 percent white, respectively (2012-2013 common data sets).
However, Carr explained that the school’s commitment to diversity is about more than statistics and one-time events. He focused on a long-term pursuit of an inclusive community. It’s not enough to just have a diverse campus; people need to know how to get along and relate to each other.
“We live in a diverse, global community, and students should know how to be effective members of the community,” he said. “Our curriculum needs to continue to change, so we can provide students with what they need to function well in society and get along with different kinds of people.”
Cochran said that Urban League’s embrace of culture encouraged people to get involved.
“What stood out to me was their pride in who they were,” Cochran said. “They are so proud of their heritage, and they showed such a strength and call to action. They aren’t just focused on how they have been poorly treated; they motivate people about what they are going to do about it.”
Carr said that EOD is a step in the right direction to decrease discrimination in our society.
“We need to understand that the work is never done,” Carr said. “As a society, we are prone to make certain mistakes. Discrimination is something we’re never going to solve completely, just like other aspects of human nature. This event keeps synergy for people to work toward equal opportunity, and not become fatigued. We have not arrived, but we need to continue to work on the human condition.”