Connecting Creativity and Diversity

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Diversity is extremely important in the life of Fresno Pacific University. We think about it, work on it and pray and pay for it constantly. It matters in our accreditation status; our relationships with state and federal agencies and programs; our reputation in the community and in national higher education rankings of quality and value; our ability to recruit faculty, staff, board members and students; our fundraising and grant efforts; and in countless other areas.

It also makes FPU a better place and increases our ability to live as God intends. While we think about diversity as an issue of social justice, an indicator that a group or organization does not practice inappropriate bias or prejudice that unfairly disadvantages any category of people, we see more. Most important, and often lost in the activity—and unfortunately too often acrimony—around diversity is the positive view that diversity is essential for creativity, which is essential for innovation, which is essential for progress and improvement.

God obviously likes diversity. As the creator of everything that exists, God ensured the predominant pattern of the universe would employ the continuous convergence of differences to produce constant change and endless variety. When two elements that are the same converge or combine, the result is merely more of the same.

Creativity depends on the interaction of differences. This is especially obvious in human groups and systems. We tend naturally to like the comfort and predictability of being with people like us. But the more tightly we restrict ourselves to the immediate comfort of shared sameness, the more surely we drive out creativity and change, whether in a family, a small group, a church, a corporation or a university.

For a system to gain the creative benefits of diversity, its policies and practices must intentionally favor and nurture diversity in its elements. Higher education in California, for example, must balance the commonalities required for it to function while actively promoting and providing for diversity among its parts: public, private, religious and secular.

When public policy too narrowly prescribes one definition of diversity for all colleges and universities, the creativity and long-term effectiveness of higher education is compromised, education is homogenized and true diversity is lost. Indeed, the greater the differences among the individual colleges and universities, the greater the creative innovation across the whole system and the greater the freedom and choice for students and families.

A school that enrolls only women or only men is less gender diverse than an institution that enrolls both. A school that serves a professional area or chooses its faculty and staff based on religious belief is less diverse on those variables than institutions that do not. But these more specialized schools contribute to the diversity and creativity of the system, and by extension the society it serves.

So it is a mistake to require each college and university to define diversity in precisely the same way. To do so is actually counterproductive, since the diversity of the parts is the source of the diversity of the whole. We must protect and promote robust and respectful conversations and collaborations among diverse members of the system. That kind of diversity provides the creativity our society needs to move forward. Requiring everyone to be the same will prove fatal regardless of what belief or ideology controls the sameness. There is a deep reason God likes diversity. God is the ultimate Creator.