By Daniel Pedemonte ’20
Currently I’m a third year Economics major at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. When I first think of diversity at HWS I think of the illusion the colleges try to portray. As a Posse Scholar I had a vague idea of what I was coming to. Before stepping foot on campus Posse Scholars undergo a “Pre-Collegiate Training” program where they begin to create bonds with their own Posse mates as well as understanding what type of campus they will be entering. During our Pre-Collegiate training, we read an article from the Finger Lake Times regarding a protest organized by students of color against offensive posts made on the once popular app Yik-Yak. Reading about these events opened my eyes to the subtle ways people on this campus can come together as well as hurt each other. I came to this campus hoping that it will be like that, making strides to further change and make sure students of color on this campus feel safe. That didn’t seem to be the case as I went about my Hobart and William Smith experience.
The most significant experience from that year relating to the problems of diversity on this campus happened during my first HWS Posse Plus Retreat titled US Vs. Them. For those who were there and participated, the outcome of the retreat was more chaotic than productive. What painted the retreat as chaotic was the fact that towards the end of the second day, the program took a left turn when a group of senior HWS students began to voice their frustrations with the general state of diversity on our campus. Their frustrations came from the four years of work that people of color have to put in maneuvering their way around this campus. This was when I began to feel their frustrations, I began to see the ways that in the smallest ways administrators, professors, and my fellow peers take actions to combat safety for students of color on this campus.
An HWS administrator’s duty is to mitigate the harms done to the colleges. In that prioritization they lose focus to who they should actually be helping. Making their prime objective the brand of the colleges rather than those students who’re affected by very actions their administrators make. During my third Posse Plus Retreat titled State of the Union I saw first-hand the way that administrators think they’re helping students but in reality only think of themselves as a part of the institution. During a small group discussion, I was with an HWS administrator who had gone and participated in the retreat. The discussion in the small group was meant to construct ways to try and bring the teachings of the retreat back to the campus. During this time the frustration I had from the weekend transformed itself into a rant. This rant was directed to the way that administrators tend to curb students of color as well as prepare them to take losses when they try to seek justice using the very systems this school preaches. I went further in explaining the idea that even if we were to try to bring ideas of change back to the campus, the administrators of the colleges will continue to keep their prioritization on the campus rather than its students. At the end of the rant, I was met with a defense from the administrator that was in our group. Not a defense of the institution or their particular office but of themselves, saying phrases like “oh I’m not like that” or “I care for all MY students.” During their defense they told me their life story, using their queerness as a factor of their own marginalization. I at the time didn’t understand why I was hearing this, it did not matter to the central focus of the conversation or even to my previous rant but yet a white person needed time to validate themselves to me. It wasn’t until the last thing this administrator said that truly caught my attention. They stated, once again using their queerness as proof of their marginalization, that “Our angers are the same, the only difference is the experience that lead to it.” This was the problem, if this administrator’s anger was the same as mine they wouldn’t need to justify themselves to me, they wouldn’t be taking my critique of their place of work as personal as this administrator did. Their attention wasn’t in furthering conversation to see how they as a person of power can take steps to help solve problems. It was towards them defending themselves as a non-problematic person. On a personal note, I hate it when white queers use their queerness to curb their white guilt.
I don’t feel as if this campus is diverse. I don’t see the actions of administrators to help students. I am Daniel Pedemonte in a school that is 29.6% non-white, this isn’t a diverse campus.