What some people have gone through this past week is excruciating. The level of pain, anguish and resignation I hear in some people’s voices when talking about the current state of the campus climate ignites those same feelings within myself. I in no way can relate to some of the atrocities that many people on this campus have faced. However, I can say with absolute certainty that after being here for almost three years, I know just how little the administration does for members of this community who are hurting and seeking help. And this recent Margolis Healy forum I sat through confirmed all of my fears. It’s not that the Administration doesn’t care about Vassar or it’s community. They just have absolutely no idea that there is a problem.
First of all, I want to say I was deeply alarmed that the majority of the people who were at the forum were people of color. People of color get it. We get the atrocities that happen on this campus worldwide, specifically regarding the different levels of racism that run rampant through all structures. But let’s face it, the majority of the people on this campus are white. I believe that current percentage ratio of white students to colored students is 65 to 35. I know I’ve called out white people on many platforms before. It is because white people, or at least some of them, are a big part of the problem. It saddens and frustrates me that there weren’t more white people there, at least for a quick education on the concept that, surprise, racism still exists.
In terms of the main purpose of the forum, there could not have been more eyes rolling. After I heard the same canned “we get it and we need your help to make change” answer for about the fifth time, I could have screamed. These issues aren’t new. Vassar students have been begging for change for decades. One of my faculty mentors told me after the meeting that since she started working here, multiple consultants have been hired to say the same things over and over. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been wasted on these people. And for what? To tell us that it’s the burden of a person of color to have to call out racism, teach the system about it’s wrongs, all while dealing with daily microaggressions and inequality? That is seriously messed up.
Steven Healy said that he would not be doing his job if he did not believe that issues like racial profiling and other racists systems cannot be overcome at institutions like Vassar. I partially agree with him on that point. I do think that with the right internal systems set in place, Vassar can combat the larger national institutions that plague oppressed peoples all the time. I don’t necessarily think we’ll get there by having all security officers wear body cameras, but hey, I’m not the man getting paid six figures to make these calls. But if these systems aren’t set in place soon, then Vassar will continue to be a part of a vicious cycle of oppression and racism. It’s going to take a complete overall of the top powers at this school in order to really get somewhere. It is not secret that the only dean who was a person of color, Eve Dunbar, recently stepped down, and was replaced by a white man. With a board of people who just don’t understand and a board of trustees who seem virtually non existent, not much will ever get done. People will continue to feel unsafe here years after I have graduated, and voices will continue to go unheard.
Do I think that now, after such a public forum attended by so many, that the Vassar administration suddenly gets it and is ready to jump in guns a-blazing and make real change? No, not really. Not at all, actually. Yet I will still keep praying to the universe for my fellow people of color who are not safe on this campus. I will keep praying for those who feel like they’ve been bamboozled into coming to a school that touted itself as diverse and made for everyone when it so clearly is not. I’ll keep praying for the Administration and students on this campus that have been fooled by the system into thinking that everything is all hunky-dory in the world and people are equal. Good God, I’ll pray for them a lot.
—Christopher Brown ’16 is a mathematics and political science double major.