Diversity coordinator—that’s a title you don’t see on many business cards. It’s a perfect fit for Tray Robinson, because he embodies diversity so uniquely. Eighteen years ago, Robinson escaped the mean streets of Compton to play football at Chico State, before the Wildcats disbanded their program. On the way to earning his degree, he made stereotype-defying discoveries about ethnicity, sexuality and faith. For the past 2 1/2 years, following 5 1/2 as an admissions counselor, Robinson has served as the campus’ hub for diversity activities so varied and numerous that it takes a Web site (www.csuchico.edu/diversity) to sort them.
What, to you, is diversity?
I define diversity in a wide range—basically celebrating, educating and bringing awareness to the differences in us as people, whether that’s ethnicity, culture, sexuality, gender, faith—just across the entire board.
And how does one coordinate such things?
Wow! Well, diversity is so big, and as a university we want to make sure we’re speaking in general terms about diversity and celebrating all those different things. We’re also really trying to pay attention to our area. One of the big things I do is go out and meet with the different communities in the North State—such as the Hmong, Native-Americans, African-Americans—and talk with them about ways the campus can support them.
Do you see yourself as an example of diversity at the university?
Yes I do. Growing up in Compton, being an African-American male, being a student here, seeing the different things that have taken place on campus, I have some history. But I think my life in general is a piece of diversity: African-American; a Christian; male; gay. My brother passed away from AIDS. I’ve had the opportunity to do some traveling—I just returned from Spain.
So you can speak with people from a wide yet singular perspective.
A pride point for President Zingg is that the campus has gotten more diverse. Is that something you’ve noticed?
It has, and I think the community of Chico also is becoming more diverse. I think folks may not automatically notice the difference, because as our numbers are going up for people of color, our overall numbers are going up. But I definitely see a difference. … One of my hopes is that we as a university can infuse diversity in everything we do, and it’s not a second thought, that it automatically happens. I think celebration months are super-important, but it will be nice when it happens all the time. We’re not at that point yet.
Is it your hope that the country will progress you out of a job?
[Laughs] That’s the hope. I would hope that as a society we’d do a better job of treating people better and equally, that we would not judge each other and that we’d care for each other as human beings. … I participated in the development of the Martin Luther King memorial, and the first meeting I attended was incredibly powerful for me because there were leaders from across the North State, from different faiths, different ethnicities, genders and sexualities, and it was empowering to know that everyone was there for this common cause, and referring to each other as brothers and sisters. That gave me hope that people can get along regardless.