CU Café Presents: Acceptance v Tolerance

Last week, the annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit was hosted at the University of Colorado Boulder and CU Café was honored with an opportunity to participate a host panel discussion entitled “CU Café Presents: Acceptance v Tolerance.”

The panel discussion was moderated by Dr. Loren Hough of BioFrontiers and Physics and it featured two members of CU Café, Sarah McQuate and Kaylan Haizlip, both post-docs in the biological sciences. The panel was rounded out with the addition of two CU faculty with expertise in campus diversity issues, Dr. Tiffany Ito and Dr. Laura Border. During the panel, we encouraged the audience to participate for the entire duration of the discussion, which focused mainly on identifying tolerance and acceptance in the context of the classroom and community environment. Sarah proposed the best analogy for these two concepts and it was expanded on throughout the discussion.

“Acceptance is being invited to the party and getting asked to dance. Tolerance is being invited, but no one is talking to you once you get there.”

Attendees were encouraged to define both terms, share personal experiences, and suggest changes that could lead to creating a more inclusive, accepting campus at CU. After a rousing conversation, the conversation moved to the idea of quantifying microaggressions in order to explain the lack of the feeling of belonging at the University.

In the end a final consensus was that people feel accepted when:

  1. You talk to them.
  2. You welcome them personally and professionally.
  3. You are open with them.
  4. You smile at them.
  5. You acknowledge their existence.
  6. You value them and their contributions.

We practiced being open with each other in small groups and found that a sense of belonging is great! When it is not there, the emotional toll is palpable and leads to unrest. Bottom line from the panel: Be aware of your intentions towards others and be genuine in your interactions for the betterment of yourself and the community at large.

Now it’s your turn! How would you define tolerance vs. acceptance? Can you share personal experiences with either? How could we start to make a college campus more accepting? Please share you thoughts in the comments section below!

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