A Voice at the Table Features

Changing West Chester: one voice at a time

From the outside looking in, West Chester University seems like a regular college campus. Walking around campus, you couldn’t see more normal college students, thinking the only stress on their minds right now is midterms. But the A Voice at the Table (AVATT) staff decided to interact more with the students on popular discussion topics such as race, class and sexuality. We composed a survey based on each of those issues and had students from all different backgrounds put in their feedback.

Race is the most controversial topic to talk about. On a campus that’s not known for its diversity, the majority of students agree that not every race is represented well on campus. We often see the campus hold various events, but barely anything that speaks on someone’s race or cultural background unless certain organizations host them on campus. To go off on that further, most multicultural or black and Latino-based organizations aren’t promoted to new students, such as LASO (Latino American Student Organization), Black Student Union, Black Men United, Muslim Student Association and other organizations. The effect is some students feel they are the token “spokesperson” for their race or culture. This means being put in uncomfortable situations such as being the only minority in the classroom and having to talk about a historic event relating to your ancestors, making students feel not in control of the situation and not being truly heard.

We also asked students about the usage of the “N” word and whether or not non-black people have the right to say it. Answers varied from, “It’s unacceptable in every scenario” to “I usually don’t say anything because I don’t like confrontation.” All students agreed it’s a word that should never be said no matter the circumstance.

In the end, it’s important that we educate the uneducated. We then continued on to class and talked about the biggest financial issues on campus, such as  housing. Students describe situations of being kicked out of housing because of financial aid packages being delayed or not receiving financial aid at all, causing one student to not live on campus for a semester due to not being able to afford to. Other students talked about the expenses of school, saying, “If I didn’t have scholarships, I wouldn’t be able to afford to attend.” Students also described their background affecting the financial problems with some coming from single parent households and also having siblings to take care of. We ended our survey off with questions relating to gender and sexuality. We found various problems within this topic on campus. West Chester claims to room individual with the same sexual orientation or at least ones that do not discriminate, but students voiced that they have had “roommates who are extremely discriminatory.” Also, classroom environments aren’t the safest as they should be: “Classroom environments are also difficult, especially discussions and debates. There can be a lack of support shown from other students and professors.” Another student says, “As a woman, I’ve encountered what felt to be an extreme distaste for my presence in the STEM building. Outside of the LGBTQ office, I tend to be quiet about my sexuality.”

…she quickly realized that the university was not culturally varied as she had hoped it would be. She did not allow that to discourage her. Instead, she was inspired.

After reviewing the survey, we’ve come to understand that West Chester has come a long way for inclusivity, but our work isn’t done. Let this article and survey be the push for the change that needs to come.

Najah Hendricks is a third-year student majoring in social work. NH871270@wcupa.edu

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