Updated: May 7, 2020
What is your name, year and major?
My name is Femi Akindele, I am a Senior at this university, studying management information systems.
Why did you come to UMass Dartmouth?
I was a student at Suffolk before, I had my first year of college at Suffolk and it just wasn't for me. The major that I wanted to do was not going to be successful at Suffolk, Suffolk is about law, and I was in
for more of the tech stuff.
Do you consider the faculty to be diverse?
For the most part no. So I've been at the university now since 2017, i think throughout all of that I had maybe 1 professor of color, so that's the only minority teacher that I've had through my three years here and I think that speaks to a larger level of maybe the intentional suppression of diversity, but I think it's kind of ridiculous. Especially when I took a black studies class and the teacher was also white. So I had to learn about what the struggles of being black in America is from the perspective of a white professor. For me that was very, I wouldn't say degrading but it was frustrating because I had to be in a class because I needed the class but also I couldn't complain because that's all I had. It's almost like at least you have a black studies class right? I'm learning from a person who's not affected by the issues, then what's the whole point of the class to begin with?
How do you think the university treats/ views its students of color?
I think were almost seen as disposable really, because a lot of the accolades the university is proud of, a lot of them were contributed by students of color.
So you have a lot of student orgs that are multicultural, that's because of students of color, you have events that pull in crowds from on campus/ off campus, like we fill up the auditorium, those are our events. So these things that the university boasts about, are things that students of color do on a daily basis, but when it comes to giving us resources, when it comes to letting us do more of those things its oh we don't have the money, we don't have the resources, but yet we see other orgs that are predominantly white, no issues no problems.
The dodge ball people always having their dodge balls tournament every year, somehow they are able to live through having events and were always looking for scraps, so I think that were almost seen as disposable like our issues can wait.
Can you walk me through what it physically feels like when you enter a pro-dominantly white space?
For me anytime I walk into a space that's mostly white there's always this burden and I think that more people would share the sentiments that whenever you enter a white space that there's going to be a burden to represent the whole population well because there's so many stereotypes. If I go into a white space and I am too loud or I get angry too quick it's no longer Femi got upset, its black men are angry. So for me when I enter a white space, I am under this unfair pressure to represent black people as a whole well, and theirs a level of comfortability that goes away when I enter a space that is predominantly white because your in a space who don't understand you, or who have put in the effort to understand you.
As a black person I can assure you that whenever you enter a white space there are preconceived notions about you, you're not going to take the time to learn about what you are as an individual, it's always about stereotypes and preconceived notions.
For me as a black person, it's kind of sad that you wont give me the fair chance to get to know me as a person. Also when it comes to presenting, I have presented in front of white audiences, black audiences, and I am always more comfortable presenting to black audiences. I’ve said this before and people think it's a problem and I'm like no not really, with the black audience I know that at least the lines of color or this skin is not going to be a factor. A black person wouldn't question my intelligence based on the fact that I am black. So when I present an all white panel, I have to first of all prove my intelligence before I even get into the work I am presenting, it's more work, and that's why black people say we have to work twice as hard. People who disagree with that sentiment usually think we are attacking there work ethic when its having to go into a room, proving your intelligence first, and then going into what your actually there to do, capturing a room that doesn’t want to be captured because your black.
Have you ever utilized the counseling center on campus, and how was it? How impactful would it be to have a counselor of color on staff?
I haven't actually been there for myself, but I have a friend who is black, he was dealing with some mental health issues and stuff like that, and he went there, after the first visit he never went back. I asked him what was the problem and he said there was literally no counselor of color for him, and that a lot of the issues he was dealing with was that he was feeling out of place at a white university being a black man, how is he gonna explain that to a white counselor.
At the end of the day your job as a counselor is to relate to the person, you know but he was making the correct notion I believe that how a white counselor relates when it comes to issues that affect a black person. I heard this is an issue that has been raised before I even came to this campus about the counseling department not having more black counselors, I think it's a no brainer really. It's like focus groups really, you wouldn't have a person who hasn't been through the subject of a focus group in a focus group. The same way you wouldn't wanna have a white counselor, counseling a black student on issues that affect black people.
Have you ever attended events put on by multi cultural orgs and what do these things mean to you?
They mean a lot to me, this month is actually the black history month show coming up, the one before the last one I was actually on the committee that planned the event and it was really amazing. It was actually pretty special so I am also on the committee of the African Student Association, so we put on a couple of events a year, a big event is coming up in April. For me these shows mean a place where I can go, and just have my culture be on display.
That's the one time I can go and see my culture on display, other than that UMass Dartmouth is not displaying any other culture besides American culture right. You're not gonna see African flags or African culture on campus except on welcome students day but other than that you're not gonna see it on campus. For me to have that place and go and see that, it means reconnecting with my culture, and having the space to express that freely.
Has the school cut funding to these orgs, do you feel like the school supports and validates these events?
The school wants the accolades of the events, but does not necessarily want to give resources to those events. I think that's kind of a ridiculous place to be, you want the events to be successful, you want the accolades, but you don't want to give the resources needed, so definitely. The school has definitely cut funding. There's a process that if you got a budget and you didn't like the budget you could always request for more money through the SFPs. They took that away.
You can't convince me that the school isn't cutting budgets when you take out an avenue that would allow students to request more money. They also know that if these multicultural orgs if we keep succeeding that adds more worth and validity to our complaints, because if we're giving you events and were properly funded we can then use those avenues to expose what the school does for students of color. Success is a voice, success if power so if we continue to be successful we can eventually have a voice and the school knows that. I think they're gonna actively try to do things to stop that but we're not gonna give up, we're very resilient, the school will have to respect students of color. We will get to that point, but it's either peacefully or with some protests because at this point it's kind of ridiculous, having to prove my worth as a black person on campus is just ridiculous, I shouldn't have to do that.
How do you feel about white students on campus….What do you wish they would do different?
I wish they would be more involved in our causes. I remember last semester there was a walk out for climate change, the students who organized it were predominantly white. They came to the Unity House, they asked for students of color to join the fight, and we did, even LaSelle from the Unity House encouraged us all to go and be a part of it, the numbers were huge and it was very successful. The crazy thing is two days later we had a meeting called ISAAC Meeting where we had a meeting with school administrators about funding for students of color, so we asked the other student groups to be a part of that. It was a no show. Ya as you can imagine. For me, it's just accountability man. If we show up to your event, the least you can hold yourself accountable enough for our event too you know what I mean? Because at the end of the day all students were on this campus and we're all facing some kind of unfairness from the administrators, it just so happens the black students face more. If you're gonna ask for our assistance, then we should be confident in asking for yours and be confident that you will give that to us.