Suggestions for a better Denison

LETTER TO THE EDITOR 

A few weeks ago, I co-authored a Denisonian article describing our motivations behind We Too Are Denison (WTAD). Since its initiation, we have gotten incredible support but also some resistance. After all, the image of a near-perfect community is one of Denison’s biggest products. The lived experiences of students on this campus seem to come second-place to maintaining this perfect image. Although I appreciate Dean Fox’s letter about WTAD and his suggestions, I think we need to be more critical about our approach. This is not a personal attack on Dean Fox, but rather a criticism of the manner in which Denison handles most social issues including racial tensions.

I believe that action should follow thought. WTAD was not created to point fingers. It was created with the intention of bringing forward unrecognized voices. As members of marginalized groups, we created the opportunity to voice our frustrations. The question we keep hearing is “where do we go from here?” Here are a few of my own suggestions.

#1: Educate Yourself: In my experience, micro-aggressions on this campus are often met with the excuse of ignorance, which is no longer valid. As students at a college which aims to educate autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents and activating citizens of a democratic society, we must reject the ignorance which fuels many of the tensions on this campus. Learn about systems of oppression and power. Recognize that we all experience the world differently based on the narrow boxes in which society places us. Additionally, the institution needs to provide more diversity training not just for students but also faculty and staff.

#2: Listen: Dean Fox urged us to collaborate to create conversation and change. This conversation is already happening on campus in different ways: from BSU events to Sustained Dialogue to class discussions. Instead of pushing for more conversation, take the time to actually listen to the ones already occurring with the intent of learning instead of arguing. Realize that these conversations are not about attacking individuals but rather the structures and attitudes that maintain the status quo.

#3: Lend Your Voices In Support of the Marginalized: One of my favorite responses to WTAD has been the allies. These students recognize the way in which they are privileged on this campus and are willing to speak up and support their peers. We need more allies on this campus. One must not personally be oppressed to recognize the effects of oppression.

Administration must also lend its voice to the marginalized. It is the administration’s job to ensure that all students have a healthy living and learning environment. This includes addressing issues of racism, classism, homophobia, and other -isms that make students feel like strangers on their own campus. Stop hiding behind diplomacy and sweeping issues under the rug.

#4: Stop Making It All About The Numbers: While at Denison, I have often heard about the increasing numbers of minority students and faculty on this campus. I am impressed with the increase of visible diversity on this campus. However, I also recognize that it is not all about the numbers. Increasing the number of minority students on this campus and refusing to listen to their concerns does not a progressive community make. The contributions of minority students to this campus are too important to ignore. Let’s focus less on the numbers and more on the actual interactions that occur on campus.

We still have a lot of work that needs to be done and it requires, above all, a collaborative effort.

Shakia Asamoah ’14 is senior from Boston, Mass.