Goucher College markets itself as an institution dedicated to social justice and inclusion, but, like many progressive organizations, its discourse often does not match up with its deeds. According to the Center for Race, Equity and Identity (CREI), students of color comprise approximately 20 percent of the school’s population. Goucher is a predominantly white space, which is reflected in the decisions and actions of the administration and student organizations. Using rhetoric of inclusion, certain members of the administration have expressed an opposition to the prospect of affinity housing or event funding specifically catering to students of color, arguing that school funds are paid for by all students and should be distributed as such. However, this argument fails to address the need for non-white spaces that affirm identities rather than marginalizing and negating them. The student-run Programming Board is a microcosm of this larger issue, being predominantly comprised of white women and in charge of overseeing a vast majority of student sponsored events on campus that do not cater to the needs of students of color on campus.
In short, Goucher College is failing its students of color. Much like it has been since its creation, Goucher is an institution predominantly comprised of and catering to white women. In order to address this lack of representation, we are proposing a nonviolent course of intervention that would reallocate a proportion of funds, equal or greater to the percentage of students of color on campus, from the student activity fee that all students are required to pay in order to fund activities and programs catered to students of color. Rachel Neumann, as quoted in Jose-Antonio Orosco’s text, said it well: to “condemn the rage by judging those who express it, without acknowledging the larger context of systematic state violence is to strengthen the opposition.” While our grievances are not with state violence in this context, this notion is still applicable. Denying students of color comprehensively funded affinity spaces within this system of violence is violent, too. As Gelderhoos says, in essence, violence is in the eye of the beholder, and it is often perceived as such when an action goes against the status quo.
We, on the other hand, recognize the structural violence of white dominance. When an empowered institution is exerting its power on oppressed people it is perpetuating an unjust system. The lack of inclusive recreational spaces for students of color is one of the many manifestations of this unjust system. We are not proposing violence as our means. Our nonviolent approach is the most effective method of influencing the people, positions and stakeholders maintaining the status quo. As an additional tool of nonviolent practice, our approach is to highlight the larger U.S systemic violence that penetrates the campus. That approach begins with commenting on the vast racial inequalities writhing the administration, faculty and staff.
Goucher College is comprised of a series of sub-institutions that participate and act as stakeholders in the broader discussion of racial equity and its necessary component of accessing economic resources. The campus’ pillars of power in relation to this particular project are primarily: Programming Board, Office of Student Engagement (OSE), Alumni Association, Center for Race, Equity and Identity and Goucher Student Government. Within the listed institutions, there is a persistent culture of bureaucracy, inclusivity and anti-segregation discourse that act as political barriers for social change. Desired initiatives and actions taken by interested students must routinely take the following into account: the Institution, fetishism for “articulation,” coded language, inclusive rhetoric and professionalism. Much of this ideology is pickpocketed from liberal perceptions of progress, which include the assertion that inclusivity has begun to demonize exclusive projects that affirm marginalized identities. Most of the organizing work that will take place is predicated on forming individual methods for speaking with students, administrator, staff and alumni. This involves an intense level of research, understanding of allyship, and a general understanding of racial equity on campus.
Our plan of action hinges on popular and strategic support. This initiative needs a coalition-building strategy to create an accurate narrative describing the lack of non-white spaces at Goucher and how it is manifested in the current Programming Board. This initial organizing should be accomplished by the movement leaders and needs to be faithfully conveyed by all supporting parties such as alumni, OSE, CREI, the Communications Office, etc. Students of color who are invested in creating more affirming programing events must be the foundation of this initiative. They are the forces of change within the new Programming Board system in which a part of the Programming Boards funding proportional to the number of students of color on campus will be diverted to a separate Programming Board, lead by students of color. Leadership positions should be held by a varied group of people in order to create a sustainable cause and to promote a shared investment in that cause. Students organizations such as USCC, Umoja, HOLA, ASU, GWOCC and other affinity groups need to encourage their members to take up leadership positions in the new Programming Board system and help keep the other parties such as OSE accountable during the fund allocation process. These students will need alumni to advocate for a more diverse Programming Board system and help financially support the new programs.
We will also need the support from OSE to offer aid and lend the new Programming Board legitimacy on campus. Crucially, OSE plays a role in making sure funding has been allotted fairly and in fighting for us if opponents jeopardize our autonomy. They also give us administrative access, which would help to keep the board sustainable and provide support outside of the student body. The Center for Race, Equity, and Identity is also needed to advocate for this new system and provide insight on how to best frame the problem and solution to different involved parties. We would also have to consistently clarify that we are not serving the same function as the Social Justice Committee; our objective is to hold recreational events that don’t have to be politically or socially charged. Students of color want to participate on campus the way white students are able, without the burden of needing to constantly and reflexively challenge oppressive discursive and institutional practices.
Our approach is to employ nonviolent tactics strategically rather than principally in order to create a new, equitable Programming Board system. Nonviolence, according to Sharon Erickson Nepstad, is a “practical and effective form of political struggle” that we will use in order to attain equity. We believe that, like many nonviolent strategies and movements of resistance before us, “heighten[ed] long standing grievances” combined with the social and political conditions that we find ourselves in will make for a receptive audience to propagate our cause. As is seen in other nonviolent movements such as the Satyagraha movements of India, we feel the need to create, in essence, a parallel government that caters to the needs of students of color and establishes self-governance. We believe in the self-governance of students of color and the creation of spaces in which people of color can relax and have fun without having to navigate a white-oriented space.
John Lewis, one of the major leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, understood the necessity of self-governance enacted through a parallel government when he gave a speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. He describes how “if any radical social, political and economic changes are to take place in our society, the people, the masses must bring them about” by “[taking] matters into our own hands and [creating] a source of power, outside any national structure that could and would assure us a victory.” While we are not working within a national context, by choosing to create a students of color lead Programming Board, we are in fact taking matters into our own hands and creating our own government system that would fairly and comfortably meet the needs of people of color at Goucher.
To clarify, we do not have a principled objection to the use of violence to secure our objectives. We are strategically implementing nonviolence because we believe that our success is more likely if we utilize nonviolence. In her talk at Dartmouth College, “Why Civil Resistance Works, “Erica Chenoweth says that “nonviolent campaigns [outperform] the violent ones by about two to one in terms of full success.” This includes not only student movements such as ours but also violent revolts against tyrannical repressive regimes. She also states that “nonviolent resistance in the past 40 years has become increasingly effective and violent insurgency is becoming increasingly ineffective.” We believe that if we mobilize support amongst the key actors outlined above and operate within our nonviolent parameters of action we will find success.
Ultimately, a separate governing body that funds and organizes programs and affinity spaces for students of color would be the best method of combatting the Programming Board’s homogeneity, which bespeaks the white structural violence of student activities on campus. These developed atmospheres would not be racialized or oppressive, allowing students of color a chance to relax and feel safe. To meet this end, we will build a popular and broad-based strategically nonviolent movement that challenges a number of offices and organizations oriented around student life at Goucher. Self-governance, rather than integration, is the best solution for programming that caters to students of color. A race neutral campus is not good enough. Students of color deserve an environment that enables them to embrace and celebrate their identity however they see fit.