A graduate's view: Why I no longer have faith in UMD
As a biracial freshman at the University of Minnesota Duluth, I wavered back and forth about whether to stay. At some point during that year, I decided my best response to the racism my friends and I faced would be to stay. I would give UMD time ...
As a biracial freshman at the University of Minnesota Duluth, I wavered back and forth about whether to stay. At some point during that year, I decided my best response to the racism my friends and I faced would be to stay. I would give UMD time to get used to minorities, and we would grow in numbers until UMD was actually the diverse campus it claimed to be. I felt that had I left Duluth I would have been giving up on the people there, and I just knew they could change.
That decision, made as an 18-year-old student, kept me in Duluth until I graduated. Every year of my college career, racism happened. Things happened both on campus and in the community, making me question my decision. But, in the end, it always seemed right.
That all changed on Sept. 26 when I logged onto Facebook and saw the faces of a friend and of a college advisor. A YouTube video was added this fall to a list of racial incidents at UMD ("Diversity debate deteriorates at the University of Minnesota Duluth," Sept. 28). Since then I've decided I made the wrong decision as a freshman.
In Duluth, I was called the n-word for the first time. In Duluth, I saw my friend go through what is now termed in Duluth and in the Twin Cities "the Facebook incident" ("UMD community gathers to address Facebook controversy," April 22, 2010). In Duluth, I was afraid to go home by myself from the library because of the many times young white men drove past me in their pickup trucks and shouted racial slurs.
The list goes on, and I don't have space here to tell every racist thing I faced. I mention a few to show that life is not easy for a minority college student in Duluth.
When I was a student, I encouraged other minority students to stay at UMD. I told them about the decision I made as a freshman. I said that just by being there, we would show people something different.
But now I say I was wrong. Just being there was not enough. UMD needs a wake-up call, and it should no longer come at the expense of minority students.
What UMD offers now is a substandard education. The education is substandard for all students because a university that does not protect or appreciate its minority students does everyone a disservice. It does minority students a disservice by forcing them to constantly deal with issues unrelated to schoolwork. It does white students a disservice by not preparing them to deal with the real world.
As a UMD graduate, I was prepared for life after college. However, I keep facing these things because UMD and institutions like it are not preparing other people to interact with me.
Now I tell UMD's minority students to go where they are wanted. I urge them not to give UMD their tuition or their very selves as a number in the minority head count. I advise them to attend a university that will be glad to have them.
In the past, African-American students fought to attend schools that historically would not accept them. These days, minority students have options and many good schools from which to choose. I encourage students to choose what is best for them and to let UMD make its own choices.
The year is 2011. No matter what you think of minorities, nobody can ignore numbers or money. If UMD keeps doing things the way they have been done the university will lose both.
University of Minnesota Duluth graduate Sarah Stewart now lives in St. Paul and is working as an administrative assistant and as an enrollment coordinator for a Twin Cities-area university.