Las Vegas Sun

November 18, 2017

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Sun Editorial:

Rich ethnic diversity makes UNLV a paragon of ‘the real Nevada’

Amid the recent controversy over UNR student Peter Cvjetanovic being photographed alongside white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., a student organization at the Reno university responded by distributing T-shirts reading, “I am the real Nevada.”

It’s a powerful statement that definitely captures the spirit of true Nevadans, who revile white supremacists and would never condone racial hatred of any type.

But we can’t let this opportunity pass without pointing out another university — our own UNLV — as a paragon of “real Nevada” values.

That’s because of the Las Vegas university’s extraordinary ethnic diversity, and its commitment to welcoming students of all races.

UNLV is among the nation’s most racially diverse campuses, holding one of the top spots in annual U.S. News and World Report’s Campus Ethnic Diversity report. The university’s rating puts it in a five-way tie for second on the list with such institutions as Stanford and the University of San Francisco.

As a majority-minority campus, with 54 percent of the campus of nonwhite ethnicity, UNLV’s demographics are in line with Southern Nevada’s and are close to those of Nevada as a whole. Depending on who’s doing the survey, Nevada is either on the cusp of becoming majority-minority or recently reached that status.

The richness of Southern Nevada’s diversity was highlighted in a recent New York Times study of U.S. Census Bureau data showing that Clark County looks the most like the United States of the future — 2060, to be exact — of any county in the nation. The comparison was based on national trends of race, Hispanic ethnicity, age and gender.

UNR and Reno, on the other hand, remain communities where whites vastly outnumber people of color, more like the U.S. of the 1960s than 2060.

Cvjetanovic brought racial issues to the forefront at UNR when a photo of him shouting during the torch-lit “Unite the Right” rally in Virginia went viral.

The 20-year-old said that although he’d marched alongside Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, he didn’t identify with those groups. At that time Cvjetanovic was employed by UNR’s Campus Escort service, a free program that provides rides to students near and around campus.

“I hope people acknowledge that being a party to the alternative right does not make me an evil Nazi, and that being pro-white right now is dangerous, and being pro-white doesn’t mean I’m anti-anyone else,” he said.

After Cvjetanovic was identified, UNR President Marc Johnson issued a statement saying although the university didn’t support the content of Cvjetanovic’s message, “we have no constitutional or legal right to fire him from his job or expel him from the university.”

To shift the focus away from Cvjetanovic and show support for minorities in the campus community, the Associated Students of the University of Nevada came up with the “Real Nevada” marketing campaign.

The student organization, the undergraduate student government, bought 5,000 T-shirts bearing the slogan and handed them out to students.

The campaign was commendable.

But it would be a disservice to UNLV not to recognize it as a place to experience “the real Nevada.”

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