By Quintez Brown —
The University of Louisville has problems with diversity and inclusivity. Earlier, I wrote about our problem with losing black faculty; now, U of L must address the concerns of students of color.
As a black male student in the Honors Program, diversity and inclusivity have been issues throughout my academic career.
U of L can applaud itself being the most diverse school in Kentucky. However, this means nothing when students still find themselves being the only one of their identity in their classes.
This isolation is magnified in Honors classes and Honor’s residence halls. This semester, the Honors program has made attempts to address concerns of inclusivity.
Luke Buckman, honor’s assistant director for student programming and development, said several students of color expressed concerns last semester.
“We became aware of concerns about a lack of diversity, representation and inclusivity both on campus and in Honors,” said Buckman.
The Honors LLC launched two events in the Spring semester to address these concerns.
Outside of Honors, University Pointe resident Jayla Verrett had to deal with a racist incident in her residence.
She says her roommate became drunk and yelled racial slurs at an invited guest.
“(She) got upset because the one guy she liked there wasn’t giving her enough attention. She kept getting more and more irritated,” and used a racial slur, said Verrett.
Verrett reported the situation to campus housing but says they essentially disregarded her.
Situations like this are why diversity and inclusivity need to be more than buzzwords.
The health effects of feeling powerless and voiceless are real.
“I ended up moving off campus since the situation occurred, but honestly I haven’t done much else since everything happened. I personally have gone through a lot since transferring to U of L and I just didn’t have enough energy to sacrifice into creating a bigger issue,” said Varrett.
However, students on this campus believe that U of L doesn’t have a serious inclusivity problem.
This is because of situations like Verrett’s that are swept under the rug. That and the privilege of navigating college life without confronting issues of racism, sexism, homophobia or ableism allows no serious conversations about diversity and inclusion.
Honors student Rylie Potter says that privilege allows people to avoid uncomfortable situations and discussions.
“As a straight white male, I benefit from almost every sort of privilege there is. When you put yourself in a position that’s uncomfortable, you start to realize other people’s point of views,” said Potter.
The Honors LLC events Learning about Black and Brown and Inclusivity in Action were designed to facilitate discussion about diversity and inclusion, but they garnered low attendance.
Learning while Black and Brown was designed for students of color to express their concerns about issues they had encountered on campus. Inclusivity in Action was designed for all residents of Kurz Hall to engage in dialogue about identity and privilege.
Both events were facilitated by Marian Vasser, the director of diversity and education and inclusive excellence.
“Attendance size was not as large as we had hoped it would be. It’s especially disappointing knowing the amount of work that went into the event,” said Buckman.
It’d be great to make discussion-based events mandatory because students need to have these uncomfortable conversations. However, mandatory events may do more harm than good.
“Making events mandatory can sometimes increase resistance to the information presented. So, for this event, we invited and encouraged attendance,” said Buckman.
Even if the university is taking initiative on making diversity a priority, students need to as well. We can’t force these conversations. But someone needs to step up and start them.
We need to stop acting like everything is roses and rainbows for students of color at this predominantly white institution. We don’t live in a post-racial society and we certainly don’t attend a post-racial university.
It’s not even just race. LGBTQ+ students, women, and students with disabilities all have to jump extra hurdles to attain an equal education at our institution. Don’t sweep concerns under the rug.
Check your privilege, talk to marginalized groups and have the will to actually make inclusivity something our university can be proud of.