This is my last semester on campus. I plan to transfer after this year. I’m not leaving because EMU is a horrible place that destroys all joy and creativity, but because the majors do not fit my goals and I have nothing keeping me here on the East Coast. Those are my two main motivators. I will not be convinced otherwise.
However, it would be dishonest of me to pretend there aren’t aspects I pray will not follow me to my next destination. For instance, I don’t want to feel like a guest anymore. Harrisonburg is the least diverse place I have lived in my entire life. I recognize that many of my peers grew up in even more homogenized areas, and to them, EMU is practically a melting pot. However, I grew up in an extremely diverse area where people of color and immigrants were not unique stories that add a sprinkle of color but simply classmates and community members as common as green grass.
EMU doesn’t accommodate the multicultural landscape I recognize as home, possibly due to its overwhelmingly white, Mennonite history, but at a university whose target audience makes up less than a third of its actual population, it is frustrating to see the culture not shift with the community. Mennonite tradition is very important to EMU’s foundation, but when the university boasts its cultural exchange while people of color and international students still need an excuse to celebrate their culture, EMU’s promised welcome feels ingenuine.
Genuine accommodation involves more than allowing Safe Space to finally celebrate Coming Out Day or international students to cook their food in public areas without snide comments. It’s about normalizing the existence of everyone who is not a white, American, cisgendered, heterosexual student. Even as I write this, I feel almost ridiculous to propose this level of inclusion; but there are many of those categories that I belong to. It is fine that the campus is still attempting to move toward this level, but when I go to diversity event after diversity event and I see little to no actual change, it doesn’t feel like EMU is keeping me safe. It feels like they are trying to silence the problem child in the corner. It doesn’t feel as if anything actually shifts until students go to administration and say “I do not feel safe” or our intake of nonwhite, Mennonite students dwindles.
With the minority groups on campus’ constant lobbying and workshops, it shouldn’t take extreme circumstances for EMU to finally address them. Their grievances must be taken seriously because the way the institution treats minorities impacts how the overall culture treats us.