Disclaimer: the segments in bold are my attempts of paraphrasing some of the perspectives of an intense conversation held at a particular student organization’s general body meeting.
Sitting around in a circle doing arts and crafts isn’t going to make our problems go away!
This essentially means the speaker believes if Virginia Tech really wants to do something, it’s going to take more work than a group dedicated to talking about our problems. For others, they’ve been here before. It’s a walk down memory lane and they would rather discuss what the administration did to address previous issues raised before tackling new ones.
This group makes it seem like black students at Virginia Tech have the problem, as if we need support to work through our problems. But the problem is not with us, it’s with the culture at Virginia Tech that makes us feel the way we do.
In other words, Student Affairs should be creating a space to inform the dominant culture on campus of ways to not make underrepresented groups feel marginalized (e.g., training in diversity and inclusion).
We are already having these conversations in our own safe spaces.
I can understand this particular viewpoint; however, I can also see how Student Affairs may have wanted to create a safe space for people who have not already found one of their own. Perhaps due to not being aware of various student organizations on campus or not quite feeling as if they fit in the particular ones they have explored despite their desire to do so. I can relate.
One member’s research focuses on better understanding the experience of African-American students at Virginia Tech, especially those in agriculture-based fields of study. She explores how these students exist within the community in addition to how internal and external mentorship shape their experience and degree progress. She says:
“African American students at PWIs are sometimes faced with the challenge of being classified as a marginalized group. With that marginalization can sometimes result in automatic assumptions made and a generation of stereotypes.”
For this particular person, she believes the flyer was a poor example of outreach because the facilitators assume the problems of its target group by emphasizing particular emotions and experiences, instead of just asking. The board of the flyer reads:
Threat. Emotional wellbeing. Academic stress.
Family issues. Pressure to prove yourself.
Racism. Sociopolitical climate. Pressure to fit in.
Microaggressions. Stereotype threat.
In her research, she learns this is incredibly ineffective.
Furthermore, many of the members did not quite grasp why the facilitators believe “grouping them together” would encourage participation. They questioned if the facilitators knew that African Americans are statistically less likely to seek individual help in regards mental health. How is this any different?
When the previously mentioned member reached out to Student Affairs, they asked her to meet with them to see how they could make the support group more effective. She came to the rest of the members to get feedback. Their responses:
Throw the whole event away.
In other words, they do not want it or feel they need it. We shall see how this all pans out.