|Here on campus everything is so separated.|
Black woman: Even here [the University of Illinois], the organizations are segregated. Few minorities participate in clubs that are not just for minorities mainly. In my undergrad at North Carolina A&T, a historically black college, there were many clubs for me to join, and I felt comfortable. Here I feel uncomfortable going to different clubs. They were not accommodating and I felt awkward. . . .
Black man: I am a senior in food science. How can we diversify the faculty? What steps can we take to get minorities in teaching positions in Ag and in all areas?
Bowen: We have to face reality. Right now it is about supply and demand. There are not a lot of people of color. . . .
Black woman: Concerning comfort zone, minorities are always outside their comfort zone. Majorities are unwilling to step out. Everyone stays in their own little groups for assignments. It is the same with organizations. None of the majority students is willing to step out of their comfort zone. I am the only African American in Ag Engineering on the campus and perhaps throughout the country.
Bowen: Invite different people to go out. Talk to your professors.
Latina girl: Since it is a big university, you don’t get to interact with your classmates. Sometimes, I like animals more than people because people cause too much trauma.
Bowen: I agree! (The audience laughs.) I think professors need more ice breakers to get people to interact.
Black woman: Here on campus everything is so separated. There is the regular homecoming and then the African American homecoming. Today I was walking on the quad, and this white girl was passing out flyers. She passed them out to the white girls ahead of me, but she did not give me one. [Rene enters an aside in her notes: “How sad! What was the white girl thinking? That the black girl wouldn’t be interested in her event? Was it out of fear? Or did she not want her to attend?”] What can we do about this climate?
Bowen: You have to go to the smallest level. You shouldn’t say that you have a problem with the whole university when it boils down to smaller issues.
White woman: As a member of the majority, I feel like I should speak up. I was raised in Texas in a 40-percent Latino community. From a majority point of view, I knew Latinos so I felt comfortable around them. I went to [Texas] A&M University and was never around African Americans for my undergrad. I am so afraid to interact because I do not know the culture, and I am so afraid to step on toes. Being from the South, we tend to stick our toe in our mouth a lot (audience laughs, helps to relieve the tension). The problem is that we are so afraid of offending people and hurting someone’s feelings. I just want you to be my friend, not just because of my skin color.
Bowen: There is not an easy answer. I think that the fear factor in ethnicity and race goes way up while other religions and circumstances don’t elicit the same response. All it takes is initiative. If you are the majority or minority, be proactive. At Ohio State, all my professors were white. . . . Be bipolar in your academic activities and other social activities. I was involved in church. You can be around people you want to be with. Look for other places besides the academic community. (Chapter 2)