Students all around the UR campus were furious! In every crevice were students engaged in discussion that may have began one way but drifted off into a dialogue consisting of an article published in Messenger Magazine, entitled ‘The Problem of Reverse Segregation at the U of R” by Marcy Cleaver. Despite whoever may be behind the Marcy mask, the issue of her identity is far from what needs to be addressed.
As I listened to these conversations, eavesdropping on some and contributing to others, I noticed a commonality amongst them. There was usually one individual who felt strongly about the issues addressed within the article and another who was angered by the way in which Cleaver depicted both the cultural groups and the minority affairs office on campus. With so much inquiry flying around the student body from the mind-boggling question as to why someone would write such an article to the less relevant question of who this Marcy Cleaver really is one must wonder why she specifically poses a verbal attack on these groups in particular. Perhaps it is out of rage due to some sort of prior rejection from such affiliations or maybe even bitterness that these groups never reached out to her in the past.

What Cleaver seems to ignore is the fact that minority groups, offices and programs are on campus to properly integrate nonwhite students into the campus community. Offices like the Office of Minority Student Affairs and programs such as Early Connections Opportunity are not put into place to make minority students feel incompetent or incapable of making new friends and learning, but instead to guide them through a smooth transition into an environment many of them may have not been accustomed to, academically and/or socially, prior to college. The purpose is to make minority students feel as though they are also welcomed and belong on this campus despite what the numbers suggest. Most importantly, their role is not to separate minority students from white students but communicate that UR is for them too.

Additionally, Cleaver argues that minority students are disaffected by the shortage of minority professors at the University. This, of course, is false and neglects even bigger issues. Although we do not go to class everyday angered at the fact that almost all of our professors are white, if given the option, most minority students would cherish the opportunity to have at least one professor who looked like them and perhaps understood more personally some of their points of views, as diverse as they can be. And even if minority students are in fact disaffected by the lack of minority professors, ultimately the University as a whole black, white and every color in between is negatively affected by the limited range of experiences, perspectives and teachings that result from maintaining a homogeneous faculty.

Cleaver’s article further mentions the term ‘Reverse Segregation” in response to the lack of white student membership in cultural groups on campus. The question posed here is whether minority students alienate white students from these groups or whether white students are separating themselves. In contemplating this issue, perhaps some thought ought to be given to why these minority groups even exist. Do they serve as multicultural organizations or as a way for minorities to find community, support and familiarity on a campus that in some ways can be foreign and uninviting? These are questions worth asking before we begin to point fingers. Once the finger pointing begins (which the divisive nature of Cleaver’s article makes inevitable), the blame should not be placed solely on the organizations that are supposedly excluding white students but should be shared with those who close themselves to the entire idea to begin with. One thing we must keep in mind is that diversity works both ways. If we want to diversify what Cleaver labels as the ‘minority community,” people from all sides of the table must care enough to participate. For example, last year’s Spanish-American and Latino Students’ Association president was of Asian descent, a white student currently holds an executive board position within the Black Students’ Union and in Minority Student Association Board’s most recent Town Hall meeting, there were white students who were in attendance and actively participated in the discussion. Inclusion and integration can be improved, but rather than complaining behind an alias, what this campus needs are students who will act upon their values and get involved.

Instead, Cleaver’s alternative ‘to create equality would be to create a White Students’ Union.” In the 21st century, are we still pretending that race is no longer an issue, or have we just chosen to turn a blind eye toward it? Any individual willing to be honest with him or herself, particularly knowledgeable and aware college students, can acknowledge that the world we live in is, in a sense, already a White Students’ Union. Having a WSU would be utterly ridiculous and useless at a university where whites are the majority and white culture permeates much of the campus. Furthermore, a WSU would bother me on another level, because the idea of creating an all-white group brings to mind another race-exclusive organization that also uses a three letter acronym.

Ultimately, though, the issues of race we face are not exclusive to UR. So why not have groups, like MSAB, who are ‘committed to furthering minority student goals” an aspect Cleaver discourages the group from doing even though this ultimately means furthering the Univesity’s goal of helping students succeed. We, as a people, should never deject a means of bettering one another. What sense does it really make to bring down a group of people in order to feel as though we are equal?

If there is anything that I took from Cleaver’s article, it is this: we should learn to celebrate our similarities as well as our differences. As we do this, we can remain true to ourselves by embracing our cultures and even sharing them with those who do not have them in common. Even so, we must not pretend that something as prevalent as race does not exist or affect our life experiences. Truly, we are more similar than different, but we ought to embrace our differences, because they are what make the world and this university more vibrant. We all need to make an individual attempt to support one another. We all need to attend a BSU, Filipino American Students’ Association, Israel Council, etc. meeting or event this month and experience diversity for ourselves. And Marcy Cleaver, you’re invited too.

Cooper is a member of
the class of 2009.

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