On the 23rd September 2019, the University of Surrey announced that they have made a stand to show how inclusive the University is and how diverse they are. What was that stand, you might ask? They painted a pedestrian crossing to look like a rainbow. Yes, you read that right.
With a lot of students returning to Surrey as well as over 6,000 new students joining, it has certainly caused some mixed opinions on campus.
However, opinions are just that, opinions. One rather popular page among students on Facebook, SurreyFess, has seen a huge influx of opinions, with the overall tone being particularly negative. The anonymous posting site has allowed students to share their opinions in a relatively judgment-free way as the public do not know who submitted each post.
Some students have expressed opinions that it is a waste of money, unnecessary, or a poor way of expressing LGBT+ inclusivity. Other’s expressed disinterest in it, claiming that it’s “only a pedestrian crossing”. Some, however, agree that it helps them feel included and helps them feel accepted at the university.
Here’s a controversial statement. I don’t agree with the rainbow crossing. I think that there are much better ways of expressing inclusion and diversity of students than painting six stripes between two pieces of pavement. Having more LGBT members of staff or student union sabbaticals is a start. I don’t agree with it, however I am also not bothered by the fact that it happened and if it helps some people feel included, that’s great. My personal opinion on diversity is that it’s a very tough line to walk. On the one hand, it’s important to give more jobs and more positions of visibility (such as the sabbaticals at the Student Union) to LGBT and minority people, it’s also important to ensure that the best person gets the job. We, as a society, are tipping towards more positive discrimination than choosing the correct person for the job which is becoming counterproductive. When I get chosen for a job, I want to be chosen because I was right for the job, not because I’m a woman.
Bringing this back to the crossing and general opinions on the choice of colours, there has been a large number of people on social media saying that those who disagree with the rainbow crossing are homophobic. While some people who disagree might say so because they dislike gay people, I can certainly say that that is not the case for everyone. It is a large leap to say that because someone doesn’t want a giant rainbow painted in front of their university then they are homophobic and you should “stay away from them”.
As I mentioned before, opinions are just opinions and while some people don’t agree with your opinions, you need to be reasonable where you draw your conclusions. In regards to how the university and its students should ‘deal with’ the crossing, it’s just some colours on a piece of road and it will become old news soon. In future, I would probably avoid painting crossings as a symbol of equality, after all, what would a crossing that supports BAME students look like for example?