Hollywood diversifies

By Madison Williams, Transcript Correspondent

It’s mighty morphin’ time.

Reminiscent of a classic action movie, Power Rangers embraces the nostalgia of the stereotypical superhero plot, while also breaking down walls and destroying barriers.

Originating from a television series started in 1993, the new Power Rangers reboot released this March, features a racially diverse cast, including a character on the Autism spectrum and another who is questioning her sexuality.

The reboot has gained widespread attention for its prominent inclusivity, and attention to diversity. Its representation of minorities in mainstream media is an essential yet often ignored notion.

“We stuck to the original concept of having a very diversi ed cast. I don’t think a lot of movies take that kind of risk of having a maybe gay character as a super-hero and an autistic kid as a superhero,” said Power Rangers creator Haim Saban in an interview with CNN.

In the Power Rangers movie, the rangers are not de ned by their differences such as being on the autism spectrum and questioning one’s sexuality. Instead, they exist as multi-dimensional superheroes, capable of being strong yet vulnerable, in a sense human and relatable.

“Movies like Power Rangers are so important for representing queer people and neurodiversity,” said freshman Brandon Meyer, who is also a member of the Pride Club. “As long as the representation is done well and is good representation, it will actually be noticed by a large portion of people.”

Seeing inclusion in the mainstream media puts forth an idea that it is acceptable to differ from what is deemed traditionally, socially, and culturally acceptable in our society.

This message is one that can and should be reflected in all aspects of our culture, and used to inform the public in how they should positively contribute to acceptance and inclusion.

On a campus that is “committed to providing a supportive and richly diverse culture on our campus,” according to Ohio Weslyean’s website, it is imperative that the school continues to learn and grow from the messages of inclusivity depicted in mainstream media, and movies like Power Rangers.

“Diversity, to me, means having many different types of people. We have made strides there. The key is inclusion so that not only are all included but all are represented. That, though, is harder to achieve,” said Professor Bob Gitter, a Joseph A. Meek professor of economics.

The benefits of diversity in academia

By Dr. Thomas Wolber, Modern Foreign Languages professor

Some people hold the view that diversity is incompatible with and antithetical to excellence. A woman can never be an effective president, they might say. The same people may believe that a black student can never become a top-notch STEM scientist or that a Hispanic-born dreamer become a loyal American citizen. They are mistaken. Diversity is not just about being fair, nice, or politically correct.

Lets imagine, for a minute, that Hollywood makes movies only for, by, and of straight white men. Obviously, such products would not be particularly attractive to most women, Hispanics, Blacks, LGBT folks, or international audiences. To increase sales and profits, the film studios would have to produce movies that are more diverse and multicultural in terms of gender, race, national origin, language, sexual orientation, etc. The same is true of any company. If a board of directors consisted of nothing but a bunch of old white-haired men, chances are that the particular products of that company wouldnt be bought by many millennials, women, or minorities. A company that wants to avoid entropy and to remain competitive has to make a concerted effort to understand the market and respond to its customers. Boards must be as diverse, inclusive, and heterogeneous as possible and create space for new viewpoints while considering alternatives. Not only do diverse and decentralized companies perform better, their long-term health and well-being depends on having a workforce that reflects the population.

The same principles apply to other institutions and organizations like schools, churches, hospitals, city councils, the police, political parties, etc. Recent studies outline multiple benefits of diversity for institutions of higher learning as well. Jeffrey Milem at the University of Arizona (2003) says that increased faculty diversity results in more student-centered approaches to teaching and learning; diverse curricular offerings; research focused on issues of race and ethnicity; and faculty-of-color involvement in community and volunteer service. Paul Umbach from the University of Iowa (2006) found that faculty of color were more likely to interact with students, to employ active and collaborative learning techniques, to create environments that increase diverse interactions; and to emphasize higher-order thinking in the classroom. Other studies likewise emphasize that diversity enhances more comprehensive approaches, collaborative learning, deeper knowledge, critical thinking, and cognitive development. We also know from K-12 schools that black students perform better academically when their schools have black teachers, and their graduation rate is higher. This is by no means an exhaustive list. There is much that is not yet known because the benefits of diversity has been a historically neglected area of inquiry. But from the research available so far it is clear that racial and ethnic diversity matters for optimal learning outcomes.

Academia is historically rooted in white and male authority and hegemony. Indeed, many colleges and universities were once funded through the practice of slavery. Ohio Wesleyan University, too, remains a predominantly white institution. But history is not destiny. There is much OWU could and should do to remove barriers to diversity. More faculty and administrators of color and/or other diverse backgrounds would make the institution more attractive to minority students and help with recruitment, retention, and student satisfaction. At the same time, it would allow OWU to fulfill its promise to provide a global education for everyone and prepare all students for a world that wont look like the communities they hail from. OWU, a liberal-arts college, has a fine tradition of broadening studentshorizon. But there is more to be done. Currently, OWU is not preparing students to the extent that is necessary for a diverse world and future. For example, most graduates will have never had a person of color as their teacher, adviser, or mentor in their life. In the real world, it will be different. How will OWU students deal with a black, female, or LGBT superior later in life? Will they accept and support the person in authority, or will they reject and undermine the leaders legitimacy? Is OWU equipping them with the requisite body of knowledge, skills, and character to navigate the unknown?

As the population of the U.S. becomes more multicultural, diversity and inclusion will play an increasingly integral role in every aspect of society. It is the next frontier.

Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion is announced

Areena Arora, Managing Editor

Juan Armando Rojas, associate professor of Modern Foreign Languages has been appointed as the university’s first Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion.

Provost Chuck Stinemetz in an email to all employees said, “Dr. Rojas has considerable leadership experience as chair of the Modern Foreign Language Department, and has actively participated in a variety of internal and external initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion on college campuses.”

Rojas said, “I’m looking forward to provide leadership on diversity-related issues in the academic area. I’m excited about working with faculty to encourage the development of curriculum and pedagogies that continue to engage increasingly more diverse student populations.”

Rojas is also the director of Ohio Wesleyan’s study abroad program at University of Salamanca, Spain.

Stinemetz said, “His (Rojas’) energy and passion for increasing the campus appreciation and commitment to diversity will greatly benefit current and future Ohio Wesleyan students.”

“Equity, diversity and inclusion are my goals,” said Rojas. “I have high expectations to bring possibilities and support underrepresented students accomplish their personal and academic goals and help them see the life-long transferable skills that quality higher education provides.”