As anger and frustration with prejudice and injustice sweeps the country, one Haverford student group, Transformative Inclusive Diversity Engagement (TIDE), is actively trying to change the culture of race on campus.
“We are an action group,” said TIDE member Dawit Habtemariam ‘15 at a meeting in Stokes computer lab Wednesday night. “Other diversity groups are more social but our goal is to change the structure of Haverford.”
TIDE was formed last April in response to We Speak, a Quaker-style meeting held by the Black Student League (BSL), and its following community-wide discussion We React.
“There were just feelings of discontent,” said TIDE member Jenny Ahn ‘17. “Students of color felt like they were not as prioritized as non-students of color, and that they weren’t valued by the school.”
Many students of color–meaning non-white students–expressed displeasure at the lack of diversity amongst the faculty and student body. They also noticed a general lack of understanding from their white classmates, who were prone to make unintentionally racist or racially ignorant comments, called microaggressions, towards them.
“A couple students of color said they don’t get acknowledged as much by their friends when they work in the Dining Center,” said Angelique Spencer ‘17. “Other students said they felt like the token ones in their customs groups, and they don’t like being solely responsible for diversity.”
According to TIDE, the lack of diversity extends through the center for Career Counseling and Professional Advising (CCPA) and the school’s academic curriculum.
“All the staff at the CCPA are white, so they can’t empathize with students of color and the discrimination they face in the job market” said Habtemariam. “Also, the point of education is to give you a diversity of experiences and perspectives, but the school is very Euro-centric in its academics.”
After researching Haverford’s Study Abroad Programs, TIDE found that the number of programs offered in European countries like Italy
and France far outweigh the number of programs offered in non-European countries like Mexico, India and Brazil. The narrow spectrum of programs limit students’ ability to experience vastly different cultures.
“You can’t just look at the world through white eyes,” said Habtemariam. “We want the administration to be aware of these issues and recognize them as a problem.”
TIDE members began meeting with Haverford senior staff soon after the group’s formation in the spring. They worked with President Dan Weiss over the summer to create a diversity task force specifically designed to address issues of diversity and inclusion. In late October, TIDE members met with the Board of Managers Student Affairs Committee, who approved the group’s proposed changes for the Haverford Strategic Plan for 2020 to include more diversity on campus. According to the plan, this development would include pursuing “the possibility of a diversity council”, providing more staff and funding to the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), and ensuring “the pathways to internships and other opportunities are open to all students.”
TIDE members remain skeptical of the senior staff’s promises.
“When we met with Dan, he was like ‘whatever you say, I’ll do it, I’m on the bus,’” said Spencer. “He’s been so eager this whole time, it seemed a little too easy.”
“Nothing changes unless there’s something pushing back,” added Habtemariam. “Say we want students to be more sensitive about race issues by requiring them to go to OMA discussions. We’d face a lot of pushback from students who would make complaints. When you start shifting resources to deal with these bigger issues you’ll see pushback from wealthy donors or alumni.”
Despite TIDE’s skepticism, the Board of Managers was receptive of their ideas.
“Our most recent presentation with the Board had a really good turnout,” said Ahn. “They just wanted to keep the discussion going so we ended up talking for a couple hours.”
“The people we talked to from the Board met with Dan Weiss, urging him to do something about these issues,” added Habtemariam.
Habtemariam and Ramelcy Uribe ‘16, another TIDE member, serve on the diversity task force, where TIDE hopes to keep their plans of inclusion moving forward and keep Haverford’s senior staff on their toes.
“Hopefully the task force will use its wider resources to look into specific strategies, while we try to hold the administration accountable with constant communication,” said TIDE member Alison Marquesee ‘16. “That, and by raising our profile in the community. If people know that we are here and asking for things they’ll wonder why nothing gets done. But I want to believe in him [Dan Weiss].”
Around thirty students attended the information session TIDE held before Thanksgiving Break. TIDE members hope to build a group website over Winter Break and propose a resolution to the social honor code in Spring Plenary.
“We want to include a statement that says the ‘isms’–racism, classism, sexism–won’t be tolerated,” said Ahn. “Our goal is to show the administration, ‘look at all these problems we’ve found with race.’ We can only imagine what arises in other issues of identity.”