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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston: Diverse for all, exclusive for some

I’m a proud exchange student at UMass Boston. During orientation, one constant buzzword was used by student leaders, professors and faculty members: diversity. In my first few weeks here, it got to a point where I thought UMass Boston was synonymous with the word diversity. Professors even went through the diversity numbers in classes to prove the diversity, and you know what? It is not just a tactical advertisement, they’re right. This university is incredibly diverse.  

But what is diversity? Diversity focuses on representation or the make-up of an entity. To get the benefits of diversity, it must be inextricably intertwined with inclusion. And what is inclusion? Inclusion is about how well the contributions, presence and perspectives of different groups of people are valued and integrated into an environment. UMass Boston is diverse, but not inclusive.  

Initially, I felt really at home. Diversity and multiculturalism are what I was brought up in. I’m Australian, and I’m a supporter of strong civil rights, the Democratic Party, abortion rights, marriage equality and strong progressive taxation. All these features make up the political ideology that the ordinary person at UMass Boston accepts. Except, I’m also Jewish and a Zionist. Unfortunately, despite the abundance of diversity at UMass Boston, the last word I used to describe myself has prevented me from being accepted into this diverse space. I love Israel, I love the country, I love the people and I don’t love the government. I also love Palestinians and support their aspirations for full civil rights and an independent state in Israel. 

With its diversity, UMass Boston brings in strong community ties to social and political activism, which is excellent. Since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks by Hamas, there have been walkouts, teach-ins, marches outside, vigils inside, professors saying things inside class and students saying things outside class. The number of talks about the ins and outs of the Israeli-Hamas conflict has been loud and strong. However, it hasn’t been inclusive. When a student of color asked a professor during a teach-in why the Israeli perspective was not also shared, the response was not open. Their answer was not for the sake of education or neutrality, nor did it promote understanding different perspectives. The professor said that we don’t need to teach a racist, genocidal perspective.   

Zionists are diverse just like UMass Boston. We do not all believe the same things, we have different colored skin and we come from different continents on this earth, but we all identify as part of the Jewish people and have a love for Israel, the sole Jewish state in existence. That professor validated what I have been feeling every day since Hamas’ attack: that students and professors alike see me as a racist. They see me as a person who supports genocide, a person who is not acceptable in their diverse society. I don’t support genocide; I don’t want people dying, and I don’t want terrorism. I want two states where everyone is treated fairly.   

I can’t outline the complexities of the most controversial conflict on the planet, and I’m not here to fight about who is right and wrong. I am here to ask for inclusivity. Disagree with whoever you want to disagree with, and read the media you want to read, but please do not respond to someone who is a part of your diverse community with the cold shoulder of exclusion. This leads to a lack of empathy and ignorance from all who cannot listen. In that same teach-in, the same professor said, “Don’t speak to Zionists—they don’t want to listen to you.” I want to listen, and I want to talk. There are more of us than you think who have these opinions, but we don’t share them because we’re scared. For a lot of us campus is a scary, hostile place right now. I don’t want to be called a murderer to my face again for wearing a star of David. Please let me into your spaces and hear another perspective. Please be inclusive at this diverse university.