Reflections on Racism: PWIs and minority students Part I

Photo from the NY Times

Photo from the NY Times

It has been about a week since the  incident at Texas A&M University. As I read more about how the incident is being “handled” I wonder why there is still such a lack of proactive education and awareness on diversity and inclusion at PWIs (Predominately White Institutions)?  Like many institutions, A&M has diversity officers and a multicultural/diversity office- and like many institutions, they do well in handling situations that occur on campus and impact the campus community. But one thing that I have also seen and experienced (as a higher education professional who has worked at multiple PWIs), is a lack of campus-wide education and awareness regarding diversity and inclusion in a way that impacts more than just minority students, faculty, and staff.

Implementing initiatives to attract, recruit and admit students of color, means nothing without initiatives aimed at retaining and supporting them. And now we have reached a point where the support must include educating non-minority faculty, staff, and students about how to understand and work with them. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage month, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and having organizations for black, hispanic, international, and asian students is not enough. Especially, when members of these organizations make up most of the participants at their events, programs and educational workshops. It is great support for these students, and a celebration of their cultures. But…as I have observed, there is a lack of a white (and particularly a white-male) presence at many of the events, programs, training sessions, and workshops related to cultural competence, diversity, and inclusion.They are preaching to the choir. 

It takes time, effort, and open minds to change institutional culture and to truly become inclusive. At many colleges and universities the word “diversity” still makes people nervous, angry, and fearful, and that’s a huge problem. It seems as though no one wants to really tackle institutional racism and how systems and processes have in the past, and continue to create and perpetuate barriers for minority students.

At many PWIs, minority faculty and staff are not being hired and/or retained. This directly impacts the environment where minority students need to feel welcomed and comfortable in order to persist. Then, couple that with long standing systems of oppression, unconscious bias, and microaggressions and there should be no surprise why incidents like those in OklahomaMissouri , and most recently in Texas have occurred.

They are not truly tackling the issues. They are not truly educating people. People are not truly open-minded, and therefore minority students are being set-up for failure instead of intended success. To combat issues and take a more proactive approach- we need less passive approaches like establishing a task force (without real action), less diversity committees, diversity and inclusion offices, and more active measures. This must also not be solely the responsibility of individuals who work in diversity and inclusion offices and are on committees, but it must be the work of all offices, all departments, all colleges, all divisions, all faculty, trustee and regent boards, staff, and students to make it work!

 

One thought on “Reflections on Racism: PWIs and minority students Part I

  1. these incidents are a reflection of the culture of these institutions being exposed. I’m certain that these kinds of things have happened before, but the exposure wasn’t there.
    Which is great, these kinds of ugliness needs to be exposed.

Leave a Reply