Resident advisor’s (R.A.) and Pluralism Committee members banded together during last week’s Diversity Week events in order to create a safe space to discuss the nature of the student body and promote diversity at New College. Following this semester’s recent emergency community meeting at which the student body engaged in an open discussion about discrimination, Diversity Week seemed like the next natural step in the process of improving the New College community to students like third-year and R.A. Amanda Bragg.
“I mean, every spring semester the R.A.’s set aside a time for diversity projects,” Bragg said. “Following the community meeting a month or so ago I think that Diversity Week is a good way to celebrate diversity and educate younger students who may not have been here for the discrimination teach-in two years ago.”
Th e teach-in that Bragg is referring to followed a series of community meetings that occurred two years ago and were similar in nature to the most recent emergency community meeting. At the mandatory teach-in Lecia Brooks, from the Southern Poverty Law Center, addressed the issues of discrimination and promoting sensitivity in the New College community.
“I think that the student climate has definitely changed in the past couple of years,” Bragg said. “I think our image of diversity has definitely improved, but you can defi nitely tell from the change in the types of shirts that were made this year at the Wearing Discrimination event that the concerns of the student body have shifted.”
Wearing Discrimination is an event in which students were invited to create a shirt with a statement addressing discrimination to be hung in a public place on campus. Th is year’s first choice for the location of the shirts – the overpass – proved to be controversial.
“We made a mistake placing the shirts on the overpass, where people couldn’t opt in or out of seeing potentially volatile material,” Pluralism Committee member Tyler Pratt wrote in an email interview with the Catalyst.
“But it served its purpose – showing people how many different everyday instances of casual ignorance occur on our campus. I think, to an extent, wearing discrimination is a somber event, and should be taken very seriously. But it’s also an event for those who have felt discrimination on campus, to process and claim those experiences—so it’s also a really positive thing.”
Acknowledging the presence of discrimination on a campus that is generally regarded to be progressive seems to be the most important step in many of the discussions of diversity on campus. Second-year Sydnie Petteway, whose shirt is a part of the Wearing Discrimination display, underscored the personal importance of discrimination education on campus.
“On such a progressive campus I think that students should be adamant about helping other people feel secure,” Petteway said. “What I wrote on my shirt was said to me at New College, and I don’t think people are being like that on purpose—I think that people just need to be made aware.”
Awareness is the buzzword among students working toward diversity at New College.
“I think the best thing anyone can do is actually just take a stance on discrimination and prioritize that,” Pratt said. “I think the student body, myself included, needs to stop coddling people who perpetuate ignorance, saying ‘Oh, you’ve said awful things, but you’re my friend, so you can’t be an awful person.’”