ESem Paper #13
December 19, 2014
How Diverse Is the Bryn Mawr Environment?
Originally, when I wrote about my experience in the Bryn Mawr community, I only considered how positive the environment on my athletic team was. I perceived that my experience at this school was one founded in complete acceptance of diversity; the school’s social structures seemed to desire for everyone to feel welcome. However, through the research that I did with my classmate Allie Cavallaro, we discovered that the our courses’ reading assignments were not written by a diverse group of people. We studied various aspects of the writers’ backgrounds yet focused on their race, gender, education, and socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, the results revealed that Allie and I, first-year students at Bryn Mawr College, were not being presented with reading selections with diverse perspectives. With these results, I was able to poke holes through my previously held notion of Bryn Mawr as a totally accepting community. With the help of June Jordan, I could see how disappointing educational environments can actually be in terms of presenting students with preferential readings. The problem with this one-sidedness is that students are given a false perception of the diverse society in which we live. These results show that Bryn Mawr is facing a predicament. It is vital that the mission statement, which boasts a representation of diversity in and out of the classroom, is promptly held by not only the students, but also for the faculty who select the readings for the community of students.
Essentially, Allie and I both were distressed by the summary of our results of these writers. At Bryn Mawr, I think, although we have experienced upsetting situations such as that of the Confederate flag, that the majority of students at Bryn Mawr are accepting of races. My friend group is diverse in this sense. I have, however, heard some students of color express their feelings of alienation due to their race. What is most troubling to me is that a school cannot promote acceptance of diversity if the classroom setting presents biased views of society. I do not think that students can understand people’s differences if they are not presented with them. Because of this, I think that the professors should do more research to diversify the writers in their classes. In my Gothic Literature class, for example, although the genre contains books written by white, usually wealthy, primarily English men, more modern readings could be implemented to study the Gothic genre through different lenses. Many classes could use a variety of writings as lenses as to how other people perceive society. In addition to doing further research, I think that the staff should also be diversified in order to also give perspective to the community of students at Bryn Mawr.
As a student who comes from a Middle Class family from the Midwest I have noticed that I am a minority at Bryn Mawr. People often overlook this, though, because I am white female. Fortunately, my friends who are of a higher socioeconomic status than I am try to be understanding of my financial struggles, yet I can perceive that they often find it difficult to be totally considerate. For example, I cannot afford all of my textbooks, nor do I have the newest technology that would help me with my schoolwork, and often times, people do not understand why I do not have these things. Through my research of the writers of my readings, I have discovered that 84% of the writers are considered upper middle class, and because of this, I can try to understand why some of my classmates may be less sensitive to my struggles. If people are not gaining perspective from various angles, then it would make sense that they have difficulties in understanding the struggles of people who grew up differently than they did. The Bryn Mawr mission claims that the college strives to be an accepting environment, stating that,
“we believe that only through considering many perspectives do we gain a deeper understanding of each other and the world” (Bryn Mawr College). If the lack of diversity trend continues in our classrooms, then Bryn Mawr students may not be in my because they are not gaining the perspective from
June Jordan wrote an of a reality that is unfortunately becoming true of Bryn Mawr as well. In her essay, “Report from the Bahamas 1982,” she laments as to how education often neglects the perspectives of all people. Olive, for example, is a working class woman of color whose perspective would not be fairly represented in many higher levels of education classes. Sure, women writers may be presented, and people of color may be as well. However, not only is she a woman of color, but she is also a member of the working class. It is this intersectionality that is often underrepresented in the classroom, and this holds true in the required readings I have had this semester. Jordan describes this calamity in her essay as she remembers Olive: “She reminded me of the usual Women's Studies curriculum because It has nothing to do with he or her job: you won't find ‘Olive’ listed anywhere on the reading list. You will likewise seldom hear of Anzia Yezierska. Bat yet, you will find, from Florence Nightingale to Adrienne Rich, a white procession of independently well-to-the women writers” (Jordan 44). As a school that broadcasts its tolerance of diversity, I think that Bryn Mawr should strive to represent women like Olive in Jordan’s essay in the classroom in order to truly uphold the school’s mission.
Bryn Mawr College. (n.d.). “College Mission Statement.” Retrieved from
Jordan, June. “Report from the Bahamas, 1982." Meridians 3, 2 (2003): 6-16.