The Collegian
Monday, June 01, 2020

Riots in our future

There are still several things that really trouble me as I listen to the conversation on this campus. I truly believe that we are in what could potentially be a time of growth for our school, but I'm really not convinced that there will be any sort of lasting changes made.

My reasoning is simple: No one's willing to work outside the system. Students on our campus are content to discuss their problems in private, but I haven't seen many grassroots movements indicating students really want change. Working within the system is great, but it won't lead to any meaningful minority unification or establishment of a new college identity.

Any university considered "inclusive" or "diverse" at some point had a period of growth through social groups, newspapers or even riots that left them forever changed. We haven't yet had this sort of growth period, so we have more legacy and history that affects us today.

Let's get serious, University of Richmond students: The school cannot give us anything in the way of acceptance or community. The deans can do little more than manipulate you into thinking they care in order to keep you from making your cause visible on this campus and effecting some serious change around here. But first we need to recognize that this place has a history.

My little bit of reality for the student body is this: We go to a school that was founded by Virginia Baptists long before the Civil War, so we shouldn't really be surprised that gender and race are two pervading issues on our campus. We also can't forget that we have a schizophrenic administration that claims to encourage sexual diversity, but also heavily advocates the coordinate college system.

It's incredible. A whole segment at Ayers' inauguration last year was devoted to two students saying whatever the school wanted in praise of the coordinate system. After almost 100 years of these two hopeless romantics courting each other, I think it's about time we let the coordinate colleges unite. But it will never happen because alumni are very fond of their coordinate system, and Richmond (like all schools) craves that sweet alumni cash flow. But it makes them say and do some dumb things.

For instance, one day I heard a member of the Richmond College dean's office both praise William and Mary for having sex-blind housing and praise Richmond for having a coordinate college system that's based exclusively on sex. If that makes sense to anyone else, please let me know.

Gray Court is going to be co-ed next year. Did you notice that the RAs are going to be managed by Richmond College on the other side of the lake? I don't understand how the coordinate system still has significance when our campus, classes and dorms are sexually integrated. It's just empty tradition.

Along those same lines, this wonderfully confused school leadership has taken to championing the notion of racial equality, but refuses to come even halfway to make this hope a reality.

I have two teachers right now who are dying to start a Race and Ethnicities major here. They would love to get funding, hire new (and possibly underrepresented minority) professors and attract students who want to learn about American race studies. There's this school named Stanford, you may have heard of it, that has such a program (along with many universities in America), and they call it the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. This center allows for the kind of research that our school has deemed unworthy. Not only does Stanford have a full course offering on race, they have huge, old on-campus houses that cater exclusively to sexual minorities, fraternities, sororities and themes like French and German. This diversity in housing options even extends to students who don't fit in on campus and would rather live in the eclectic "Dead Houses" off campus (each one named after a different song by the Grateful Dead).

There is an activity every year on the Stanford campus called the Full Moon on the Quad, where seniors used to make out with the new first year class but it's really just become a huge gathering of students. At this event, a whole corner of the quad is devoted to queer students (not-so-cleverly named Queer Moon on the Quad). In the chaos, students (including my brother ... I'm so proud) walk around naked except for the paint on their bodies, student organizations pass out condoms in every color imaginable and the student-led marching band plays music at midnight. The event used to be a lot more debaucherous than it is now, but the university decided to work with the students to turn it into a more wholesome activity. Would our school be down for any of that? No. Our only similar event would have been Pig Roast, but instead of taking our Pig Roast and growing it into something good, our school is surprisingly antagonistic to outdoor revelry with the senile mentality of "Take that loud music back inside where it belongs."

We could have a huge annual festival where everyone eats roasted pork or even vegan tofu and bonds as a school. But our leadership would rather have us in workshops or watching documentaries while they're hard at work demonizing the subjective notion of "bias" like it's going to make a difference.

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Please, if you're one of the students who have spoken out during the last few weeks, don't go to any of the workshops ... just get some of your friends together and dress in drag or wear all black to every class for the rest of the semester.

Make T-shirts that say "Rich-Hampton Queer" in response to the coordinate system.

If you're a member of the racial minority, make T-shirts that say, "I go to the University of Richmond ... Surprised?" Try and get these T-shirts sold in the bookstore and see what they say. Laugh at the discrimination and more importantly laugh at our school leadership when they try so hard ... they mean well.

Anonymous posts on The Collegian's Web site are always appreciated, but I look forward to the day when people on this campus decide that we can handle a little difference. I think difference is what students want, and it will never come from the top down.

Contact opinion editor Michael Rogers at michael.rogers@richmond.edu

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