So it has been about three weeks since I have begun my graduate program at Syracuse University (*pats self on the back *) and I have been enjoying the experiences that I have had thus far. I have a great cohort who I have the privilege to be with for the next two years, my classes are highly engaging and I could confidently state that I feel like I have a good sense of belonging in my program.
So what can I say about the institution as a whole? I would say that I have some mixed feelings, especially after the week that affected the entire SU population.
In case people were not aware, senior student and former soccer player Hanna Strong was videotaped saying controversial and offensive slurs to the Black and LGBT* community and the video went viral. Since that incident, she has been removed from the team and has also issued an apology to the SU community. When I watched the video, I thought about my passion for social justice and student affairs and began to remind myself that I am on this journey to further influence a college community. On the other side, as a person of color and as an ally I will admit that I was hurt by what was said. When I think about how I felt about the situation, I was trying to understand how many other students, both undergraduates and graduates, underrepresented or not, were affected by this video.
I was deeply proud of the way that the students organized and gave space for those who did want to voice their concerns not only about the incident, but about the campus climate as a whole. The students began a social media campaign using the hashtags #ittooamSU and #SpeakUpSU. I went to an event organized by the SU NAACP chapter to observe and better understand what students are experiencing on campus and to hear the ways that the community could do better in creating the safe environment for all.
So why do I still have mixed feelings? Because on the flip side to that, one of the words that kept coming out of this situation for the past week is “tolerance.” Administrators have used it to describe what the SU community should be and quite frankly I am no longer okay with the word “tolerance”. What it says to me is that people just deal with others but not really accept others into their community.
Now I fully understand that I live in a world and attend an institution that is ever changing and full of different views but I also do believe as administrators who hold power to encourage and educate that they should be educating community members not on being tolerant, but being accepting. Tolerance only begets more isolation, more marginalized feelings, less sense of belonging that no student should have to be subject to.
So when I think about my experience at Syracuse University so far and I think about the experiences that may be affecting students feeling marginalized, it further inspires me to continue my education, in and outside of the classroom. It also makes me thankful that I am at an institution that does include students, faculty, and staff that also holds social justice and diversity so near and dear to their hearts.
While I hope that no more emotionally harmful incidents like this happen again, I do hope to feel more a part of SU community.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Becca Obergefell on Women in Student Affairs