Northwestern Center will Explore Diversity, Politics and Democracy - Higher Education
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Northwestern Center will Explore Diversity, Politics and Democracy

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by Catherine Morris


Recent political developments have laid bare the fault lines that still persist across racial and gender identity lines in many parts of the United States. A newly created center at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois will tackle issues at the intersection of diversity, politics and democracy across the nation and abroad.

“We’re starting from the premise that multi-racial democracy in America is a very new and fragile thing,” said Dr. Alvin Bernard Tillery, Jr., associate professor and associate chair in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences department of political science. “We’ve only had a full democracy for the last 52 years and it’s under challenge in the current political climate.”

The Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy, which officially launched in August, will be helmed by Tillery. In a phone interview with Diverse, Tillery said that the center intends to be a “national hub” addressing the roles that gender, sexuality and religion play in contemporary American politics. The center has nineteen faculty affiliates and will offer grants to faculty and graduate students studying issues related to diversity and democracy.

In recent months, the nation has born witness to troubling rhetoric surrounding the current president’s path to the White House and a resurgence of hate crimes and anti-Semitism, Tillery said. Events such as the recent showdown in Charlottesville, Virginia between white nationalists and counter-protesters that resulted in a young woman losing her life indicate that the nation still has a long way to go in healing divisions across racial lines.

The center will host an annual symposium and a workshop investigating issues of diversity and racial inequality. In addition, the center will foster discussion with prominent national leaders who are engaged in resolving questions around diversity and democracy. The center will engage students and faculty across the university community in these conversations.

“We don’t want to be a traditional research centered university where we have academics come in and talk to other academics,” Tillery said. “We would like to have public facing conversations where we would bring practitioners who are engaged in the current struggle to come and talk about their ideas.”

The center plans to conduct flash polling and develop a data analytics focus, with an aim to collect better data on questions relating to diversity and democracy. “So many surveys that we see are focused exclusively on the public opinion of white with very small minority samples,” Tillery commented. By honing in on minority populations for surveys and polls, the center could develop a better picture of their views.

Staff writer Catherine Morris can be reached at cmorris@diverseeducation.com.