Diversity has become an increasingly discussed issue at JMU over the last two months. With multiple articles appearing weekly in the Breeze dedicated to solving the problem, one group of students decided to play a part in furthering the dialogue.
On Thursday, February 27th, students of color and allies spoke out about issues of race and diversity on campus. An online campaign was organized in which students used #MinoritiesAtMadison to start a dialogue about their experiences as minorities similar to the one started by black students at the University of Michigan. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all functioned as forums for the conversation. Students shared everything from everyday microagressions in their dorms and classrooms to blatant instances of racism and discrimination. Many expressed a sense of frustration in trying to get peers to recognize their often unintentional yet harmful remarks.
The online event coincided with a physical show of support for a freshman student named Jackie Horton who met with Vice President, Donna Harper about diversity issues yesterday. Faculty and students showed up outside of Alumnae Hall around 2:00 pm to demonstrate their support for a more diverse and inclusive JMU. Organizers put together a photo campaign in which people at the event shared why they supported diversity.
During the meeting, Jackie along with another student discussed tangible solutions that would improve the lives of students of color at JMU. As a large and growing academic institution, it is critical that JMU take necessary steps to engaging with the community about diversity issues. Jackie and organizers of #MinoritiesAtMadison asked that JMU focus on minority recruitment and retention for both students and faculty. Many students noted that they rarely took classes taught by professors of color.
Additionally, they asked for mandatory diversity training for staff and faculty, which will do more to protect students in dorms, classrooms, health center, etc. Currently JMU does not mandate diversity training for its employees. A final request was to work with student organizations in order to make them more inclusive of minority students. Since my post regarding Student Ambassadors made its way around campus, inclusion has become an increasingly important topic.
This is not a new issue, but one which has been bubbling under the surface for years. Minority students are finally finding a voice and have no intentions of slowing down. I am excited to be a part of this movement and to hopefully see change happen soon. Now, we are just hoping that JMU administration will not sweep this conversation under the rug as they have done so many times before and will instead work to produce meaningful change for students, staff and faculty.