by Elijah DeRoche, United World College Maastricht
June 28th, 2018
With students gathered from all corners of the world and all walks of life, UWC appears to most, a prime example of diversity. Culturally and ethnically, this is true; however, we are not as successful in terms of our diversity of thought. Spread across 17 campuses around the globe, with students from over 180 countries and more than 150 national committees dedicated to ensuring and maintaining the movement’s cultural diversity, UWC takes pride as “the only global educational movement that brings together students from all over the world – selected on personal merit, irrespective of race, religion, politics and the ability to pay.”
It is evident that the majority of UWC students share akin, mostly liberal, political beliefs: high taxes on corporations, low military investment, tuition-free public universities, etc. And although it can be argued that people with these beliefs align more closely with the UWC mission and values, at what point is the movement homogenizing its student body. When roughly 80%-90% of a test group with over 100 UWC student participants answer in agreeance with one another regarding questions ranging from taxes to immigration to abortion, we must question the true diversity of our movement. Thus, how can we be expected to celebrate our differences and foster mutual respect for the different perspectives when ultimately, almost every UWC student, especially those coming through the national committee system, share the same principle ideology? While the movement’s cultural and ethnic diversity remain its backbone, it is imperative to expand our community’s diversity beyond that, and into the ideological realm as UWC strives towards uniting this world and embracing differences.
While applicants explicitly said to not be discriminated against based on their political backgrounds, this may not always be the case. A fellow UWCM student recalls his national committee’s application process where they questioned him regarding his stance on homosexuality and other personal ideological values. The application, in his opinion, was definitely not looking to find pupils with diverse opinions, and rather the opposite: root out those that didn’t conform. This is an issue that delves deeper than a lack of diversity in our community. Is the movement merely not attracting a large body of conservative applicants, or are national committees and our application processes actively deflecting discrepancies in order to form compliance in the community? While this is an accusation far beyond my capacity to validate, and far less present as fact. Regardless, it can clearly be argue that our direct application process and national committees aren’t doing enough to ensure this movements diversity.
While there may be no clear measures to take in order to solve this need, a quotasystem would never work, it would be interesting to see the community and UWC culture expand and possibly seek out more students with conservative views. Of course, putting people with such strong differences of opinions, especially in the residences, may pose an issue, but it falls exactly into what the movement so strongly encourages: a respect for one another, regardless of ideological or cultural backgrounds, and an opportunity to learn from each other’s differences, as cliche as it may sound. Ultimately, if you disfavor disagreement, it’s in your power to persuade, debate, learn, and leave the impact you desire. We first need to spark that disagreement.
Elijah DeRoche is an American first year student at United World College Maastricht. He has been a part of The Flying Dutchman as a writer since January 2018.