diversity digest
Summer 02
Resources
next story
previous story
home
previous issue
archives
search
institution profiles
feedback
recommended resources
diversity web

Student Voices, Student Experiences
By Donna Wong, Emory University and co-author of Making a Difference: University Students of Color Speak Out by Julia Lesage, Abby Ferber, Debby Storrs, and Donna Wong (Rowman and Littlefield, June 2002)


 


MAKING A DIFFERENCE: UNIVERSITY STUDENTS OF COLOR SPEAK OUT (2002) PRESENTS THE PERSPECTIVES OF STUDENTS OF COLOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OREGON, A TRADITIONALLY WHITE INSTITUTION. THE BOOK EVOLVED FROM A RESEARCH PROJECT AT A TIME WHEN MOST HIGHER EDUCATION LITERATURE FOCUSED ON THE EXPERIENCE AND PERSPECTIVES OF THE DOMINANT CULTURE. HENCE, THERE WAS A NEED FOR A BOOK THAT CLEARLY ARTICULATES THE PERSPECTIVES AND EXPERIENCES OF NON-WHITE STUDENTS ON A PREDOMINANTLY WHITE CAMPUS.

Why is racial diversity an ongoing issue? A projected surge in college enrollment will result in an 80 percent growth in the number of minority college students within the next decade. Campus-wide dialogue will inevitably reflect the markedly diverse views and backgrounds of this surging group: differences evidenced by views on early schooling and racism, language, identity, expectations from the university, peer group community, classroom incidents, curriculum, faculty of color, representing the race, life off campus, and community responsibility and empowerment.

Student narratives in the book illustrate the complex intersection of U.S. society and higher education. Importantly, the narratives provide strong evidence that students of color are not a monolithic group. Experiences within and between ethnicities run the gamut, yet many issues and concerns are common to all. The book portrays the varied student groups seeking to change the learning environment through provocation, coalitions, and protest. Students are building new coalitions with faculty to advocate for diversity initiatives, including curriculum transformation and recruitment and retention of faculty and students of color.

Readers will realize the subtle racialized structures and often unspoken experiences and powerful feelings of students of color that characterize most institutions. The book offers a template for policy changes and strategies that foster a welcoming, pluralistic campus environment during the integration process of students of color.

Making a Difference

 

STUDENT VOICES

Maria Mendoza, a Chicana activist: “When I was little I knew I wasn’t accepted. My mom said she found me in her room putting Johnson’s baby powder all over me. I told her I wanted to be white. She also said that when she used to bathe me, I’d try to scrub away my skin color. In public school Chicano kids either assimilated or kept their culture and heritage. When I was in primary school, I tried my best to fit in and would lie about where my family was from: ‘I’m from California.’ Not from Mexico! ... I fought a lot when I was in junior high and a little bit in high school. Still I made good grades, which had to do with my father’s influence. If I’d bring home B’s, he’d say that’s good but not good enough. I faced a lot of pressure from him but now I thank him for it. He always valued education.”

Eric Ward, an African American student leader: “To me tokenism is being on this campus because the faculty and administration do not want to sit down and make the changes. Rather, they make excuses why it can’t be done. It goes back to that whole paradigm of power. Recruiters tell students of color to come (here) with the pitch, “On this campus we want to build diversity. Racism and discrimination aren’t allowed here.” In fact, the university doesn’t support us if we want to deal with these things. Furthermore, anything I do around discrimination helps white people understand their own sickness and, more often than not, takes time away from my studies, classes away from my degree. We people of color are the ones who have answers for racism, yet the administration doesn’t want us to do anything. If they did, they would support us more and make our struggle easier.”

 



back to top