Student Voices: How Hope Supports Students of Color

An interview with Miles Pruitt (’19), Campus Co-Editor:
How do you feel that students of color are treated on Hope’s campus?
When I first came to Hope, there were a lot of issues with students of color being part of the community. A lot of students of color didn’t feel comfortable in Hope’s spaces, because it’s a majority white school. A lot of people coming to Hope are coming from areas of high diversity, so it’s definitely an adjustment process for most people. I have a unique experience because I went to two high schools. My public school was probably 75 to 80% black, so most people that went there looked like me. The other school was pretty diverse, but there was only me and one other black kid in my graduating class. In that sense I think Hope is a lot more similar to my experiences at that school. Hope is definitely doing a better job in terms of representing minorities and having resources available for minorities to be more comfortable on campus, but there’s still a lot of work to be done in various ways. Overall for me, the experiences here haven’t been that bad, but I’ve had many friends who have had bad experiences.

Are there ways that you’ve noticed Hope is dealing with those problems?
Honestly a lot of my friends have had negative experiences, and Hope hasn’t really done a lot to combat those, especially racial incidents in the last couple of years with Trump being elected in 2016. Around that time some of my friends had experiences with racism. They reported to people, and nothing really happened to those responsible. Not only students of color have had these experiences; LGBTQ+ students have had a lot of bad experiences at Hope, and not much has been done for those students. I don’t know what process it takes to solve those problems, but it’s something that needs to be fixed.

Are there positive ways that Hope is dealing with these issues?
I would say CDI has been doing a lot of work, and 95 Stories as well. They’re doing work to try to amend portions of the Hope College Constitution concerning sexuality and gender; they’re seeking to revise that statement. There’s a relatively new group called Men of Color that just started up last year, and they’ve been getting a lot of the men of color together – including me – hanging out on a weekly basis, having meetings, eating dinner together and just establishing a community of minority men. There’s also Women of Color United, and they do a lot of similar things with their group. I would say a lot of the students of color are really helping the change, and some of their white counterparts are definitely helping to do that. I would say the students are the ones doing the changes, and I think that’s a good sign, because Hope is going to have to do something about all the students speaking out.

If you could say anything to the Hope administration about some of these social issues on campus, what would you ask them to change?
I think one big issue is that when students of color come into this community, it’s expected that they are supposed to be the ones to fully educate their white peers, to try to get them to do things. What I’m trying to say is, I think it also falls on the other party to be engaged and be interested in learning more. I think there’s a lot of assumptions that fly around. People think all people of color come from the same fabric, from the same household, from the same neighborhoods. So I think it’s on the white students to kind of step up and take initiative, in not just conversations but also actions. Hope has a lot of conversations about changing things, but then changes don’t really happen.

What have your experiences been like with some of the groups on campus?
Very good experiences. CDI, MoC, WoC and 95 Stories all create an inclusive environment where people are open to sharing opinions and thoughts. That’s what sort of lacking from some of Hope’s other groups. They’re not very diverse, and when people of color do go into those communities, they’re not welcomed. That’s important, because in the classroom it’s hard to be seen, because classrooms are majority white. I’ve had experiences where I’ve been the only male of color in the classroom numerous times. Having groups on campus really helps you feel like a part of something, even if you don’t feel like a part of Hope’s community.

Do you think Hope College does a better job than larger schools?
I would say Hope has its issues, but there are other schools that have a lot worse issues than we do. Because Hope is a small school, I think the issues are able to be fixed. I think there’s been a lot of progress in the four years I’ve been here, so I think if steps continue to be made, then Hope can really change for the better.

Any last closing remarks?
I don’t hate Hope. I think people have the impression that students of color don’t like Hope. It’s not that we don’t like it; we just don’t like the ideas that Hope represents in society. Motives are questioned too much, and I just want to come out and say that I like Hope. I like the people I’ve met here and the relationships I’ve formed, and I think I can continue to be a part of the change here at Hope. Hopefully, even once I leave, the people that come after me can be a positive change.

An interview with Joseph Jiang (’21), President of the International Relations Club and member of HAPA:

How do you feel students of color are supported on campus?
I feel that students of color are being supported, but only by a few. There is talk amongst students about how students of color are just being used to raise the college’s reputation.

In what ways is Hope College doing well?
Hope is doing well by taking extra care, showing interest in students of color and by providing MSOs for them to gather and fit in.

What is one of the main struggles that students of color face when coming to Hope?
One of the main struggles is the fear of fitting in and being judged. As Hope is known for its high percentage of white students, it is hard to come in and face a whole new culture, and the fact that most students don’t really care doesn’t help at all.

How can white students help fix these problems?
White students can show interest in the [different] cultures and maybe try to actually learn [from them] and befriend them. Maybe they can celebrate famous holidays of students of color so that they feel more welcomed or more at home.

Zach Dankert ('21) is one of the Campus Co-Editors at the Anchor.

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