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Diversity at Bryn Mawr

cnewville's picture

Something that I would like to focus on is Customs week at Bryn Mawr. Last year  I was a customs person at Bryn Mawr and several very distinct conversations about Divertisy arose. The fisrt thing and something that has stuck with me since was a seemingly random questions about what populations were at group. The talk started off with asking about how many students of color attended Bryn Mawr. 60%, 50%, 40% or 20%. As it turned out most people who were people of color guessed lower than the actual percentage and the students who were not people of color guessed a higher percentage of attendence. This contuined until we had a real chance of looking at our preceptions and how they corresponded to our own backgrounds and identites. After about a half hour, they asked how many students who identified as 'full' native american had attended Bryn Mawr in the past five years. There was the option of 100, 20, 10 and 2. Most people guessed around 20... the actual numer was 2. two students in the past 5 years had identified as native american. Now I understand why this is such a low number as there are not large native american populations near or around Bryn Mawr, but this stood out to me. This fact shocked me as I grew up in New Mexico and have grown up with such integrated native american culture into my own, also for the fact that this is a population that contuinelsy is forgotten and overlooked and marginalized by society. I do admire that the customs week brought this up in conversation and was willing to really think about how weak our own diversity really is.

A second comment on customs week, that I would like to explore further, is in the generaly structure. There are three waves of incoming freshmen on campus, and I feel that these three groups really do divide themselves  into identites and islands, if you will. The atheletes arrive first, and stay with those groups as freshman prioritizing their time for their teams. The second group who arrives on campus is the international students. They arrive about 5 days before everyone else as to set up banking accounts, buy phones and other things a domesting student would take for granted in already having. I think IO is important, however once the domestic students arrive and customs week offically begins, you can clearly see who is in each group. I wish that there was a more seemless way of blending the first few days at school so that the students , especially the international and domestic students had more shared experiences and therefore were more likely to be friends later on in the year. Obviously this is a much more complicated issue than can be explored in a post, however it is somthing that I struggled with as a customs person and as a student at bryn mawr.


jccohen's picture

customs week


I really appreciate hearing some of what happened in Customs week this year.  I'm struck by that classic divide between people of color guessing lower, others guessing higher - and I'm curious about what kind of conversation this led to.  What do you think this suggests about how numbers are both helpful and not in thinking about 'multicultural education'/diversity issues on campus?  And yes, I've also been stunned by the Native American figure, and what a contrast with New Mexico!

You raise a huge issue in terms of how international and domestic students arrive on and acclimatize to campus.  What can you imagine in terms of more effective 'blending' in that first week?