My Experience at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI)
( a definition to keep in mind)
Going to a predominately white college has been a tough but unique transition. The feeling that comes when you are the only black student in a class that is even taught by a white professor has yet to wear off. I thought after freshman year the side looks and sly comments about my hair and other things would stop bothering me, but truthfully, I’ve realized that the same way being at a PWI was different for me seeing non-whites can be different to others. I can tell that the effect of being black in a white space doesn’t really wear off because I can still go unrecognized with the change of a hairstyle. In some cases (bear with me now) the people with the questions are just genuinely curious. No, this does not mean that black students are obligated to answer any and every question that we are presented with (and no you don’t have to let them touch your hair) but knowing this might help us have more patience in those situations. I’m not saying this to step on any toes or deter any future students; however, I do want to bring attention to the uncomfortable feeling that can be attached to being a minority student in such an environment. This could be beneficial to black students considering Davidson (or any other PWI) as well as current students. Especially because current students have the ability to aid in making campus feel open and inclusive for everyone who attends.
“The feeling that comes when you are the only black student in a class that is even taught by a white professor has yet to wear off.”
Outside of feeling out of place in classes, I am sometimes faced with HBCU students saying that I am a sellout for going to a PWI instead of a HBCU. To them, any black student who doesn’t attend a HBCU is seeking accreditation from white people. This can be true for some people because sometimes certain PWIs carry more weight than HBCUs; however, a big deterant for many black students is the inability to afford an education at HBCUs. In an ideal world, college would be seen as only college regardless of the most prominent race. Unfortunately, there are discrepancies that keep this from being the case. HBCUs tend to have less money than other schools, which means they can’t afford to give out as much financial aid as other schools can. In an article written on this topic for US News, Kim Clark notes that minorities ” tend to have less of a financial cushion against hard times, reducing their ability to pay tuition bills, let alone make donations.” These scenarios can lead to students being unable to remain at the HBCU because they simply can’t afford it.
I do think that some of the initial shocks could have been avoided if Davidson’s did not present themselves as being more diverse than they are, but there are things they do to try and amend this. For example, Davidson offers a program that allows for students to study at Howard University for up to a year.
(Drake when he performed at Howard’s Homecoming)
Attending Davidson College has been a positive experience overall because I have access to a lot of opportunities that other colleges require students to pay extra for. For example, there is a program here that allows students to make their own major. So, if you don’t see a major that suits you then you can propose your own. There are also a lot of career development events that occur on campus that aim to help students get a head start on their future. One of my favorite non-academic things is the amount of free food that is almost always being given out around campus. Just this past Friday I got a free Bojangles biscuit for filling out a very short four-question survey. Another time, there was a funnel cake stand making and handing out fresh funnel cakes.
Adapting to a new environment can be hard but I learned to look for the good things I liked about Davidson because it helps make the things I don’t like easier to handle.