On Tuesday night, almost 100 students gathered in The Pier in the Tyler Haynes Commons to talk about race issues on the University of Richmond campus.
The forum, which was organized by the Richmond College Student Government Association (RCSGA) and the Westhampton College Government Association (WCGA), consisted of a panel of three UR professors, as well as one alumna.
The members of the panel included Daniel Palazzolo, chair of the political science department, Andrea Simpson, associate professor of political science, Glyn Hughes, director of Common Ground and Victoria Charles, WC '16. The forum was moderated by Tianni Ivey, WC '18.
The forum strove to inform as well as address issues that involve race on campus.
"We wanted to host a forum in order to bring this important national issue to our campus," WCGA's current president, Mia Hagerty, said. "Race plays out everyday among students even though we might not notice it."
The forum began in a Q&A style between Ivey and the panelists. The first question Ivey asked the panel was: “When did race become an issue on campus?”
After a discussion among panel members, the forum was opened up to the audience. Students posed questions to each other as well as to the panel — the forum then became a conversation for audience members too.
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One issue discussed was the inability of many students on campus to separate themselves from their race. Students shared examples of how their race effects them every day on campus. One audience member commented that, because of her race, from the first moment she stepped foot on campus, she always knew she was different from the majority of the student body.
Another topic addressed was the uncertainty white students feel towards the topic of race and racism. The group acknowledged that when it comes to race, there are many blurred lines. Students expressed that the many uncertainties surrounding race lead white students to not want to participate in discourse about it, for fear of coming off as insensitive or ignorant.
"White people are often trained to not think about race," Hughes said. "But that is privilege."
The sacrifices many students make to attend a predominately white campus (PWI) were also addressed. Students in the audience said that they often feel their culture and comfortability is being sacrificed at the cost of receiving an education from the University of Richmond.
Students at the forum brought up the idea that oftentimes minorities on campus do not have the same social experiences as other students. In response to this, the group discussed possible implementation of a multicultural center on campus, as a way for students of color to organize and host their own social events that would be open to the whole campus.
One student asked if this would cause more division than unity, because the center may create a divide between students, or perpetuate stereotypes.
The forum concluded with students speaking to the ways in which all students on campus can work towards change.
“One of the best suggestions of the night was for white students to start coming to more of the multi-cultural events, so that they can learn about other cultures,” Mark D’agostina, RC '18, said. “Coming from a predominately white background, it is difficult for me to think and talk about race.”
The panelists encouraged students to work towards creating tangible change beyond just attending a forum and talking about race.
"I think the forum was really productive because it provided a safe space for students to talk about race and ask questions that maybe they would have otherwise felt uncomfortable asking," Lucy Wills, WC '18, said.
Contact news writer Candace Hino at firstname.lastname@example.org.