Updated: May 7, 2020
What is your name, year and major?
My name is Elaine Sanchez, I am a 4th year marketing major, with .minor in management
Why did you come to UMass Dartmouth?
I came to UMass Dartmouth because out of all the schools I was looking at it was the most diverse, I was looking at Stonehill, Curry college, and the community college back where I live, I grew up on the Cape and it was the same predominantly white area, school everything. And so I wanted to be around a more diverse group of people, not just like me as a Hispanic, but a blend of different races, ethnicities, everything.
Do you consider the student body to be diverse?
Oh 100%, 100%. I'll say relatively compared to other universities around the area we are probably the most diverse, but of course there are historically black colleges and universities that are like barely any white people, but I will say speaking for the area we are from, we are very diverse.
Do you consider the faculty to be diverse?
Not at all. Where it is diverse is in a very narrow place, for example CCB you have a diverse faculty which is a lot of Asian professors from India, China, Middle Eastern. So that area is diverse, but in the other colleges I can't say I see it either. And the only areas I do see diversity is staffing, so like maintenance people, facilities, but not faculty.
How do you think the university treats/ views its students of color?
I think we are used for propaganda purposes to show that there are students of color who go here and black students who go here. But in terms of what there is for us here is very limited. I think even how the unity house looked when I first started freshman year is very different from how it looks now. In terms of funding, the students who go there, the people that work there. Yeah UMass Dartmouth likes to use that 30-35% diversity rate just to make themselves look good but doesn't actually walk the walk that they so much talk about.
When it comes down to the actual nitty gritty they scratch their heads and are like “ well they’re here so we must be doing something”, but if you think about it there are the students who don't come back after freshman year or sophomore year, or can't afford to come back. Most of the first generation students here are that 30-35% diversity rate and yeah they have these fafsa classes and whatever but that isn't always the case because a lot of us this is the first time learning what fafsa is and it's very hard for us to go back and teach our parents that. So I think the university has done the bare minimum to say they have done something to spit facts back at you, but does not mean that those things are actually doing something.
Can you walk me through what it physically feels like when you enter a predominantly white space?
You know me, I'm a pretty out there kind of person. I put myself out there, I'm really good at making connections but when I walk into spaces when I am one of the only people of color it's like you don't even know me anymore. I’m very reserved, I’m very quiet, I don't really know who I can talk to, especially this day and age, i don’t wanna call it the Trump era but you don't know who is an ally and whose not. And so it's better to keep to yourself and live with that. It actually feels like there is weight on your shoulders. There is a physical feeling of ugh okay gotta be uncomfortable again, let's do it, what is it an hour, hour and 15 let's get it. Your whole personality changes, like who you are. Nobody will ever know the real you.
And then sometimes that feeling keeps you from engaging whether it’s in class or whatever the case is with a group, answering questions, answering questions because you feel like your point of view could be targeted, or something like that, but there is definitely a personality shift when you are the only person in a white space that is not white. I either sit in the front of the class , or I'm in the very back or nearest to the exit because I want to be out of the way, inconspicuous as much as I can or incognito as much as I can.
Have you ever utilized the counseling center on campus, and how was it?
I started going to the counseling center this time last year so second semester junior year, I always wanted to go to counseling so I was like let me go it's offered for free, let me give it a chance, I wasn't really thinking of what I really wanted from a therapist but I figured let's just get out there and figure it out. So I went and the first meeting I did meet with a white woman, and it was okay, you know we talked she got to know me, it was alright, it was the first time I never experienced it , I was like okay but I came back. I did not like how they were so far apart, like 6 to 8 weeks apart. A lot can happen during that time.
Then I went on spring break and went on a family trip, and that was interesting. And I had a few things to vent about and figure out when I came back, and I had actually talk to her about a racist encounter I had with a family member over on the trip, and when I explained it to her, she just kinda looked at me, and was like wow, she didn't say much. There was no comfort, there was nothing to say. I just told her something that happened and she was just like woah, thats crazy. Like I just exposed something kind of traumatic and you didn't have much to say to me, you didn't have any tools to give me?
So after that I was kinda just like okay… So I went back one more time, I think I went a total of 3 times and I talked about how good I was doing and all this stuff and she was like that’s really good I'm happy to see that your doing so much better, but the thing was like, yeah it was good I was doing good but there definitely was going to be a bad day coming and she hasn't prepared me for that. And I was like isn't that the job of a therapist or a counselor? I don't know exactly what their credentials are or what they specialize in, but yeah I just felt like I wasn't getting what I needed.
So now I got somewhere off campus to a woman of color, who specializes in everything I need, and I have learned so much, and have grown so much in less than a year of talking to her, and when I talk about these racist things, or what it is to be a woman of color, not only does she understand, because she is that, but she’s given me tools to help combat the white fragility, the whiteness the power all that stuff. So I tried to give the counseling center a chance but it’s hard to go to somebody who just does not understand what you are going through. It taught me that I need somebody that is a person of color so I can be more comfortable.
Have you ever attended events put on by multi cultural orgs and what do these things mean to you?
Yes I have. I have learned so much. I feel like it has helped shape me into the woman that I am today, being in these spaces. For example when I started going to Black Student Union, that was the first time I was in a space with so many black people and people of color. We just talked about very real things, so many commonalities between each other's cultures that I didn't even know. I saw so many similarities and differences and through that I learned it's okay to be different. And I think growing up that its subconsciously instilled in us that it's not okay to be different.
Going to these multi cultural events I learned the beauty of being different. And just how like, a beautiful salad bowl it is, and everybody's tomatoes lettuce and dressings and just meeting different kinds of people.
Has the school cut funding to these orgs, do you feel like the school supports and validates these events?
I can say it sure as hell feels like they cut funding. I don’t have the numbers in front of me to prove it to whatever. But if every single person is saying their numbers look like they’re going down or it feels like we're working with less, each and each year. I don't think they are crazy; they can't be crazy if everyone has the same story you know. I think the university will argue against it and be like XYZ has been allocated to ABC, and all these things to kinda throw us off the scent. It just feels like we have to fight fight fight to get what we deserve where other orgs, like the white orgs that don't have orgs of substance seem to just get the money handed to them.
I can speak for the House of Deliberations where we have promotional apparel. We have t shirts that we give to our members, so people can be like hey what are you wearing and we can say this is HOD its a social justice dialogue group that facilitates conversations that nobody having in there dorms or on this campus, and even just the food. Some students really can't eat every day, so when there's a chance to have a nice warm meal with all your friends while you're learning about something, that's another experience too. HOD started 3 years ago march 2017, they started with a budget of $200, $200 to make everything work, to get the items we need to run the event, don't even think about food don't even think about apparel, just to get the org up and running. Boom, they did it, with 200 dollars they hit the ground running.
The next year they probably had 1000/12000 to make it work with the food, the items. Now they introduce the apparel, so not only is HOD upping their game in terms of what they bring to the table, but the events that they put on, and the numbers that they bring. The numbers have literally tripled. It was 20 people when we first started and we are 100 members. We literally brought the budget packet with all the members, all the events, everything and we only had a budget increase of like 100 dollars. We probably bring the most numbers of the multicultural orgs, and I was like okay. And we had VC Shannon, Cynthia, Julie, faculty, coming to these events, we were organization of the year last year, of the year. And you guys gave a 100-dollar increase? What the fuck am I gonna do with 100 more dollars. Just like how the school is a business to run, HOD is a business to run and I wanna make it flourish but your making this so hard for me. I'm trying to help you, so you help me.
But it's just so sad when we got out budget report over the summer we were looking at each other like, we were expecting at least 3000. I can tell you our budget, 1800. We were told we were gonna get at least 3 to 5 thousand dollars. Do you know what we could have done? I had so many ideas planned. And it's just so sad that we had to go to the cutting board and be like alright guys I guess we can only do this. We couldn't even spice up our apparel besides changing the colors. Its really sad. We wanted to do more for our members, we know our members deserve more. They bring so much, and there the reason that they keep growing and keep going, and they kinda just slapped us in the face with that. I feel like it all ties back to that 30- 35% diversity rate that they love to throw in your face, but don't do anything to keep you here.
How do you feel about white students on campus?
I'm not gonna say all of the white students because there are allies out there for sure, allies make themselves known like you doing this. But I feel like for the majority of the white students on campus, it’s not necessarily that they don't care, it’s really that they don't know. And I think the ones that do know, that down do anything about it, they don't care. I think they don't know because they aren't in these spaces to even know about it, they don't come to the Unity House, they don't go to our events, they don't go to our Woodlands Parties, they don't know. There not there to even try to know.
You know that quote ignorance is bliss? I don't even know what the words is, but ignorance hurts. So them being ignorant to all of this actually hurts us in the end, because unfortunately when you are fighting the fight, you need a white face to help and get people to listen, and to get other white people to listen. And when there not there, it keeps our voice silenced.
What do you wish they would do differently?
Yeah I want them to come, I know the Unity House can be intimidating because it was a space built for people of color and black people, but its not fair that i have to be in spaces that I have to be uncomfortable, but you guys can choose when to be uncomfortable or to be comfortable.
That’s the privilege right there. That’s the privilege that I was not given. Yup. Its just not fair, I cant choose to not go to class that’s predominantly white people, I need this degree, I cant choose not to show up to a meeting just because its predominantly white people. Another thing, but I think the university is doing a lot of things that the students of color and the staff of color that we do have are already doing. Like her leadership counsel. LaSella has been doing that for semesters, years, where he gets all the student leaders together, talks about what’s going right, what’s going wrong, how can we improve, how can we allocate our money together to make it easier on all of us. And she just swoops in like let me do this! Kinda looking like I’m sorry but the white savior, when in reality it’s like, why didn’t you come in learn, see that this was already happening, and try to see if you could help with that, instead of making your own thing. Literally like master taking the slaves idea and taking it for themselves.
My thing is be in the spaces that make you uncomfortable, come learn, you can’t grow in your comfort zone as they always say. I had to grow out of my comfort zone, and now it’s your turn. And were not intimidating, don't get me wrong there are people who are like oh my gosh a white person just walked into the unity house, yeah but were never gonna shut you out, we will literally take you around and introduce you to everybody. We don't see much of you, and it throws us off for sure, but I’m never gonna be like ugh God, I’m gonna be like somebodies here to listen.