Opinions

150 Years: A Student Perspective


Sahra Mohamed, Copy Editor


 

As Augsburg celebrates 150 years of informed citizens, thoughtful stewards and critical thinkers, it is important to look back at our roots along with where we plan to head. 150 years ago, this campus was white and male; 52 years later, it opened its doors and allowed white women to enroll as students. Today, Augsburg prides itself with being among the most diverse schools in the state, but what does this mean for students of color?

As of fall 2018, 47% of enrolled undergraduate day students on campus were students of color. However, despite this large number of students of color, it is hard to find a space on campus where students of color feel comfortable which is not the student lounge or the Oyate Commons. Now, in 2019, despite half our student body being students of color, it seems as though we are being overlooked. Professors on campus are primarily white, and there seems to be a very stark disconnect between students and professors, which we could blame on the unfortunate events that took place last school year within the honors program.

Diversity seems to be a buzzword used by many campuses throughout the United States, but it is one thing to parade your acceptance of students of color and another to humanize and accept these students, their histories and their narratives. As we look forward and begin to realize the effects that this kind of tokenization can have on students, we must find ways to support them.

Reflecting on the use of the n-word by an Augsburg professor last year begs the question: did Augsburg put the safety and academic well-being of their students first? Last year, students who identified as African-American or Black went almost a full school year without an advisor because Augsburg did not fill in the Pan-Afrikan Student Services Director vacancy until March. Currently, Indigeous students are facing the same strife, as Augsburg does not have a director for American Indian Student Services.   

We, as an institution, need to address the reason for the sudden leave taken by so many of our already limited number of staff of color, and what this entails for the students who rely on their services. Times are definitely changing both on our campus and nationally, and these kinds of conversations cannot be censored or tiptoed around.

As refreshing as it is to see the campus blooming with its newly diverse student body, I begin to fear what could happen to students when they lack crucial resources, especially during the transition from high school to college. Augsburg has definitely come a long way compared to what it was 150 years ago, but it still has a long way to go. If we consider the way that our country is growing and diversifying, we must begin to consider what it means to support students of color on our campus. Celebrations of achievement are necessary, but what exactly do we hope to celebrate 25 to 50 years from now?

This article was originally published in the October 4, 2019 issue. 

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