Yesterday morning, I was in a restaurant, out-of-state (long story). I was travelling, and on my own, so when I asked to be seated, I was Immediately offered a place at the counter. The place was half-empty, so I requested a table instead as I wanted to do some work.
There was silence, looks of surprise, some whispered conversation and concerned looks as the two seaters discussed my request. I began to feel awkward. They looked at me. I looked back. I began to feel really awkward. Eventually, they relented and walked me through to one of the many available tables in the restaurant. And as they did so, we passed not one, not two, not three, but four men, all sitting at tables. Alone.
Now, who’s to say if they’d all been subjected to the same little counter dance that I had, and if so, then the restaurant needs to take a long, hard look at its customer service. But if, as I strongly suspect, they hadn’t, then it raises the issue of why a woman should be expected to sit at the counter, freeing up the table for a non-existent group of customers, but a man is not.
This led me to think about the wider issue of diversity and inclusion which is right on our doorstep. Part of what makes GGU such a unique learning environment is the wide array of contributions we have from people of all ages, ethnicities, national origins, genders, work experiences etc. which all provide a different perspective and enrich our learning experience. I was therefore saddened to hear from a couple of international students over the past week or so, that they didn’t always find it easy to assimilate in class, on campus and in American life generally. They sometimes found it difficult to discover a commonality with those around them and this could prove to be a little alienating.
Now, let’s be clear, this is not the experience of everyone. Many slot straight into life here and never look back. That was certainly my experience. But we all have our own story and it’s crucial that we look out for each other and remember that every one of us play a vital role in making GGU what it is. So, if you have a class with someone you don’t normally do group assignments with, maybe you could this week? Or if you see someone around campus you don’t usually talk to, why not stop and say hi? Just introduce yourself and take a couple of minutes to find out their name.
The more we know about each other’s stories, the more we can learn, understand and empathise. And the less willing any of us will be to sit at a counter in an almost empty restaurant. Unless we want to, of course….