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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

First-year course can help dismantle campus racism

People fired up to protest racism in America should realize that fighting racism starts in our own communities.

“(In First-Year Experience class), we haven’t really had a true talk about racism, sexism (or) anything like that,” said first-year Mara Stewart. “It’s been touched upon, but not as much as I would want it to be.”

FYE, previously known as FYE lab, connects first-years to the life and culture at Guilford College upon arrival here, alongside other approaches like first-year orientation. As such, it could potentially act as a platform to inform students by addressing privilege and oppression within their lives at Guilford. With some changes, the approach to the first-year experience, both in the class and in general, can help to dismantle racism at Guilford, and by extension, around the country.

“I think the FYE 100 courses are addressing the issue of the importance of inclusion as best they can,” said FYE instructor and Community Director of Binford Hall Brian Daniel in an email interview. “The FYE instructors have been charged with a lofty task of making sure their students know and understand (all) campus resources. (I) tell my students during our diversity topic class that we are only scratching the surface on this important issue.”
Tricky to implement or not, more is needed to dismantle racism within the campus community.

“We need to figure out how to solve these issues within our campus by understanding where people are coming from,” said first-year Ethan Magnes. “You can’t let your social life or your academic life overpower that service, (the) diversity that Guilford stands for.”

Currently, Guilford does not require FYE instructors to train in facilitating anti-oppression conversations, and instructors decide for themselves how to approach the topic. They all devote at least one course session to diversity.

“I don’t claim to have the right answer, but (if) interested students and faculty were to work together to review FYE again and bring ideas forward, we could improve what we are currently doing,” said Vice President of Academic Affairs, Academic Dean and African-American Studies Professor of History Adrienne Israel in an email interview. “We need a way that will be effective and will transcend the classroom experience.”

Addressing such a broad topic in a way that will carry an impact beyond the end of the class session remains a daunting task.

“The instructors who teach FYE 100 are generalists,” said Interim Director of First-Year Experience and Assistant Academic Dean for Academic Support Barbara Boyette in an email interview. “(They) hold many different staff positions on campus. Unlike faculty, who are experts in the area they teach, the FYE 100 instructors must cover a lot of topics with little expertise.”

Despite the difficulties with creating an effective approach, it can be done. For other topics, instructors often bring in outside speakers to help address the issues. The same kind of emphasis on anti-oppression could do wonders. Even without bringing in experts, having standardized resources for instructors to draw on could help immensely in starting conversations that often seem intimidating.

Besides the FYE course, the first-year experience can help students become more informed in other ways. Anti-racism workshops often occur on campus, but first-years may not realize they happen or may see no reason to attend. Better advertisement, or perhaps offering extra credit for attending such events, could make a big difference.

Through a thoughtful approach to the way students are exposed to new perspectives, the College can live up to its core values in new and more profound ways.

“The experience of a place where equality is practiced, or at least where the attempt is made to practice it, would lead to individual and institutional change for the better,” said Israel. “But, there is no one thing that can be done. It is not an event, but an ongoing effort, that can never end.”

Getting out on the streets to protest can make a difference but only if it comes along with real change within our institutions. Informing college students about racism, and the ways to fight it, poses a real and tangible way to continue that change.

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About the Contributor
Clare Forrister, Opinion Editor
Clare is a junior majoring in economics and women's, gender & sexuality studies. She has been a part of The Guilfordian since her first semester at Guilford, and her current role is Opinion Editor. She is from Montgomery, Alabama. Once she met Jimmy Carter.

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