The college experience is supposed to be an eye-opening, perception-changing one.We leave the social upbringing of our youth to be exposed to a different world we’ve only heard about, or perhaps have seen portrayed on popular television programs. Previous certainties and opinions about life are to be, in the process of four years, reconstructed and re-presented to a waiting world.
I assume that is the way it is also supposed to be at TCU. I received my bachelor’s degree from TCU in 2003, and now I am a returning graduate student. I am hoping that, during the second time, my college expectations are better fulfilled than they were when I graduated three years before.
Back then, the ideal of social awakening and expansion I expected to encounter was shattered by the reality of the surprising amount of segregation I experienced.
Of course, I do not mean to imply that there was any preordained plan to purposely divide the campus along racial lines. What I do mean is that there seemed to be an imposing social veil, which was as thick and long as The Great Wall of China.
On one occasion, I was interested in attending a Bible study. It was a well-regarded religious group on campus and composed of white male students. I had already attended another Bible study group – one composed of mostly blacks, but I wanted to perhaps gain a different perspective on what was taught. Though I expected to be received with the open arms of Christian brotherhood, I was told by the group leader essentially that, “The black group meets next door.”
Of course those weren’t his exact words. In fact, he was very cordial in implying that I was not welcome to receive eternal wisdom from the Good Book while in his presence. That is not a criticism of him personally; I don’t think he realized what he was doing when he kindly suggested I go elsewhere.
But that’s the whole point. If a Bible study group endorses segregation, then what hope is there for all the other social organizations on campus?
That event happened several years ago, so I do not personally know what the racial climate is like as of fall 2006, but I have heard several current undergraduate students indicate that the racial rift has not changed much.
“I think the school is segregated, (and) it’s been that way since I’ve been here,” said Julia Morrison, a junior biology major. “It’s not like there’s any kind of discrimination, just preference.”
She also pointed out that the division on campus is evident in the way certain groups sit together in The Main.
I know the university itself has made great strides in improving the diversity of the school, and the faculty and staff all endorse a more diverse environment, as well.
But as Zarnell Fitch, a graduate student in the School of Education, said: “I think the solution is for the students to make a change. The school can only do so much.”
Though there is going to be division inherent in fraternities and sororities, I believe meaningful diversity can still be achieved through other avenues – perhaps through awareness groups, intercultural groups, etc.
How is the world going to benefit from students with segregationist attitudes? Will employers want to hire someone who has lived in cultural isolation so long that he or she is unable, or unwilling, to associate with anyone outside his or her social group?
The motto of TCU is “Learning to change the world.” Let’s face it – how can we live up to that motto if we don’t even know the world in our own backyard?
– -Erick Raven is a first-year graduate student in the School of Education.