Yet another post exploded on the “Buy or Sell UConn Tickets” Facebook page this weekend and it had nothing to do with tickets to a sporting event.
It all started with an ill-informed Letter to the Editor penned by one Lauren Collins. The letter denounced the university’s announcement that the Scholastic House of Leaders in support of African American Researchers & Scholars learning community (ScHOLA2RS House) is a success. Instead she accused the learning community of segregating African-Americans and putting them in “safe spaces” that do not challenge their ideas, ultimately hurting them.
Her response ended up on the “Buy or Sell UConn Tickets” page where students quickly took sides. While many students supported those in ScHOLA2RS House, there were many who took issue with its existence and even went as far as to say that the existence of the learning community showed that white privilege was not real and affirmative action was a negative part of society. Those claims and the opinions Ms. Collins brings forward in her letter ignore the true point of ScHOLA2RS House and the importance of cultural centers on campus.
Ms. Collins, and many other Facebook commentators, made some unsubstantiated claims. I don’t want to do that, so instead let’s look at the facts. As of around 2013, only about 40 percent of African-Americans enrolled in college actually manage to graduate. At UConn, African-Americans make up less than six percent of the undergraduate population. ScHOLA2RS House consists of 40-50 students living in a primarily white dorm, studying in primarily white dominated majors. These numbers show one glaring argument: As it stands, African-American students start at an incredible disadvantage at UConn. UConn and many American higher-education institutions have created a space that is not welcoming to minorities. ScHOLA2RS House creates a community that fights back against this system.
“Walking on our floor we are all close to each other. Anyone who comes to our floor will see our doors open and see us talking to each other” Michael Reid Junior, a sixth semester applied physics major and member of ScHOLA2RS House, said. “We are always doing things together. We are a brotherhood.”
ScHOLA2RS House is a system, a community that helps support African-American men and pushes them to succeed according to Sebastien Kerr, a second semester pre-sports management major. The idea, put forth in Ms. Collin’s letter, that these men are putting themselves in a position to be segregated is simply not the case. Every single day the members of this learning community go to class with the rest of UConn. They are no different than the rest of us. We are all Huskies.
One of the other conversations that emerged in the Facebook discussion was the claim that white privilege doesn’t exist. According to the critics of ScHOLA2RS House, if an all African-American community can exist then whites are no longer the most important race; therefore discrimination and white privilege are completely gone. That idea is completely foolish. Whether they want to admit it or not, white people have wronged black people. It’s a fact. Perpetuating this idea that African-Americans are as equal to the rest of society helps whites forget any guilt that they might have over the racist system that they have created.
Over the entire history of our country, people of color have faced discrimination on every level. ScHOLA2RS House is part of reparations being paid to a group that deserves and needs it. Every single person who called ScHOLA2RS House unsuccessful did so without providing any evidence and completely disregarded the real facts given by the university showing ScHOLA2RS House’s success, according to Benny Nwoahoucha, a second semester computer engineering major. They did so out of some kind of desire to put down the black man because the black man was starting to be better off in society. Here are the real facts. ScHOLA2RS House students are hardworking and have overcome many odds. It has students who have “…3.9 GPAs. There are nine to ten students with above a 3.0 and the freshman GPA is 3.6,” according to fourth semester computer science engineering major Stephen Sam. The learning community is by and large a success. It creates a brotherhood similar to how the cultural centers give students a place to belong.
“No husky is white,” said Nwoahuocha. “We are all Huskies.” Attacking ScHOLA2RS House is an attack on all African-Americans. The scholars are not some kind of affirmative action prop; they are students like the rest of us and deserve the right to an equal education. It’s time to leave them alone and let them learn.