Intersections: Ethnicity and Education

On Feb. 26, BC’s fifth town hall meeting was help on the topic of “Intersections: Ethnicity and Education.” Discussion primarily surrounded issues of the changing demographics and needs of students, faculty diversity and the experiences of non-native students.

“[BC] has nine to 10 thousand people who physically come to campus,” said Ron Holland, founder of town hall meetings and assistant director in TRiO, Adult Basic Education, Human Development and Sociology Faculty. Of those, 1,800 are international students, collectively representing 70 different countries. “70 different countries means 70 different cultures.”

Approximately 45 percent of the student population are students of color. Faculty demographics are much lower than that of the student population with approximately 18 to 20 percent of faculty identifying as a person of color. “It is crucial that all students are able to see faculty from various backgrounds so that they can know they are valued and have campus role models,” said Holland.  According to the United States Census Bureau, approximately 28.5 percent of King County’s population are people of color. This puts the student of color population above the county statistics and the faculty of color population below the county average.

Rapidly upon opening the floor for discussion on the experiences of non-native speakers, the issue of equality versus equity arose. One ESL student was forbidden from using a dictionary during a test with extensive reading in the name of equality. “If [teachers] scare [ESL students] off in the first quarter by making it so hard, you would think that they would have something in place that would tell the teachers … [that] there is a difference between the definition of equality and everyone having equal footing,” said a student in attendance. Holland says the institution is working to address such matters but could not comment on the specifics.

Other topics discussed included the lack of opportunities for  non-native students to be exposed to academic writing and discussion with native speakers outside of the classroom, the implicit expectation for students to conform to the dominant American academic culture and inequitable test times.

Holland closed with a series of recommendations to build multicultural classrooms. “[Avoid] pseudo multiculturalism … this idea that diversity is a one shot thing. … Diversity has to be infused within the curriculum and infused within the institution.” Holland also recommends showing appreciation for differences, avoiding stereotypes, acknowledging the differences of students, discovering the diversity within your classroom, avoiding interrupting students to correct their English and making students get to know those who they may not have otherwise.

The next town hall meeting will be held next quarter on the topic of male privilege and masculinity.

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