During our last class meeting, we spent a lot of time commenting on diversity at Loyola, how we define diversity as students, and how outsiders like The Princeton Review view our student population. I'm still not so sure myself whether or not the Loyola College student body is diverse. To argue that it is, I could say that we each have a different story, regardless of the color of our skin or our place of origin. However, anyone who doesn't have the time to get to know Loyola College students can see that many of them are white and wear clothing that doesn't deviate much from the current fashion. Our nation's response to this superficial lack of diversity is affirmative action, but this response is just as superficial as the diversity it tries to encourage, because the real problem is not in the diversity of the people but the diversity of the environment. For Jane Jacobs, in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, diversity is defined foremost as an economical condition, capable of thriving in cities because of the high concentrations of people. As she writes "City diversity itself permits and stimulates more diversity." (145).
One would think that, because Loyola College is located in Baltimore, the city would attract a more diverse population to the school. However, most students at Loyola College experience and live the suburban features that Jacobs mentions: "Towns and suburbs, for instance, are natural homes for huge supermarkets and for little else in the way of groceries, for standard movie houses or drive-ins and for little else in the way of theater." (146). Until recently the Colltown Shuttle stopped as far south as MICA and as far north as Goucher College. There are no movie theaters or grocery stores at any stop south of Loyola so any freshmen or sophomores who didn't have cars and used the shuttle did grocery shopping, etc. in Towson. Before I had a car on campus, which wasn't until my junior year, it was difficult to imagine myself living in a city. Now that I have a car and commute twice a week to my internship downtown, I finally feel as if I'm living the city life I had hoped to live when I came to Loyola.
During freshman and sophomore years, I was miserable here and desperately wanted to transfer. My hopes of living in a city were not fulfilled. It wasn't the lack of diversity on this campus that bothered me, but moreseo the lack of access to diversity in commerce and entertainment; "...wherever we find a city district with an exuberant variety and plenty in its commerce, we are apt to find that it contains a good many other kinds of diversity also, including variety of cultural opportunities, variety of scenes, and a great variety in its population and other users." (148). I knew that once I had access to the "mom and pop" restaurants, the clothing boutiques and quirky theatres, I would no longer feel bored by the sameness here. I would like to think that a college-age person is more open-minded and curious than seems to be the case with many first-year students on this campus, who don't make any efforts to look around. My desire for newness and exploration was a source of great frustration and deep sadness for the greater part of two years.
Another point that Jacobs makes that really resonated for me was actually about Baltimore specifically: "Consider the problem posed by the street with the pretty sidewalk park in Baltimore...Mrs. Kostritsky is quite right when she reasons that it needs some commerce for its users' convenience. And as might be expected, inconvenience and lack of public street life are only two of the by-products of residential monotony here." (144). Early in my sophomore year, I was determined to figure out the Baltimore public transportation system. I set out early one Saturday morning and rode a bus downtown to a subway station. I was profoundly disturbed by the stillness of the city, which seemed like an evacuated place to me. Even in the downtown business district, where men and women walk around in business attire, making and breaking deals during the week, I was afraid. Other parts of the city are like that too. Two of the only neighborhoods you can visit on a weekend during the day are the Inner Harbor (which is swarmed with people who aren't even from this city) and Hampden because both have lots of commerce concentrated in a relatively small area. Actually, I feel so safe in Hamden most days that I was shocked to read in the City Paper about a murder occuring, on more than one occasion, during the day on the Avenue...