By: Caroline Maas, staff writer
The Wofford College demographic is one of the largest conversations among its students, faculty, staff and alumni. When asked about their opinion regarding the current state of diversity at Wofford and what direction they think the college needs to take, Wofford students responded in a variety of ways.
Old Gold and Black senior writer, Steele Smith ’19 says, “Obviously the college has become more diverse over the years, but it feels as though it’s inconsistent. Last year for example the freshman class had surprisingly large number of students of color. This year that number is down, and I can feel the difference. If Wofford wants to truly make diversity a part of this campus, they must do it consistently and unabashedly. Right now, it feels like they’re tip toeing around the issue.”
Carter Rief ’19 responded, “Diversity at Wofford comes in a variety of forms. Some help to truly define who we are: upbringing, race, gender and creed. Others help keep things interesting: favorite non-Terrier football team, most frequented study spot, and even toppings on an omelette from Ms. Cathy in the morning. At this moment, the college appears to be making strides in making “definitive diversity” a priority. Recently, some goals were distributed by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. These goals put thought and conversation into motion. I think it’s a little past time for that. I’m optimistic about diversity at Wofford and what it will entail in the future.”
There was recently a talk held at the Association of Multicultural Students House (AMS) regarding micro-aggressions. The talk, hosted by AMS, was led by Wofford senior, Caitlyn Myer. The purpose of the talk was to raise awareness about micro-aggressions themselves and how they are directly linked, not to a lack of diversity, but to hostile and prejudiced judgements in situations that contain diversity.
A micro-aggression, defined by Myer, is a verbal statement, action, behavior or environmental factor that projects acts of discriminations or feelings of prejudice on the basis of gender, racial, and sexual identity. This, Myer explained, is a tactic so powerful that sometimes, people are not even aware they are doing it.
Myer said, “A micro-aggression is a foundation that can become behaviors that fly under the radar. Once those behaviors start to become habits, that’s what leads to prejudice and racism.”
Intended to raise awareness about how Wofford students can be more intentional about their words and actions, Myer opened the floor for students attending the talk to bear witness about micro-aggressions they have experienced. Myer urged the attendees to think about what the effect would be on campus if more people were to talk about these issues. She encouraged self-reflection, making sure that we, as individuals, are not inadvertently directing them at anyone else.
“Sometimes,” Myer warns, “these micro-aggressions, insults, and labels can inadvertently become someone’s identity.”
The awareness of micro-aggressions as they relate to diversity on Wofford’s campus is immeasurably important. The skills of understanding how to understand others, thinking before speaking and actively engaging in purposeful conversations about diversity in all of its forms is not possible unless diversity is present.
(Campus Union) Student Body President, Drake McCormick responds in a similarly thoughtful way. “I think it goes without saying that diversity has certain meaning to different people, but I think for Wofford, it means the educational richness that comes from having a culturally diverse faculty, staff and student body. We all benefit when we engage with those who hold different values than ourselves, and when those values are challenged. Here at the college, I believe we have begun to lay a decent foundation for strengthening our collective diversity, but going forward we must continue to pursue open, civil and understanding dialogue on all sides. This will ensure that we all will be prepared to enter a globally focused world as distinctive citizens.”
Recently, the College has made changes in their faculty, catering to positions dedicated to cultivating and increasing diversity, such as that of Demario Watts’s “Assistant Dean of Students for Diversity and Leadership Development.” There have been various initiatives enacted by the college over the past year to increase the diversity of Wofford and the number of conversations regarding negative attitudes towards diversity are rapidly increasing.