Lesley University has come to hold a special place in my heart. This university has a community unlike most college campuses that many just describe as a “Lesley” thing. We have an accepting community for the most part; yet there are still issues you may encounter if you don’t fit in with the general population. The school still has a lack of diversity, and as a student of color, I can’t help but notice how disproportionate the population is in terms of men and women as well as race. But this isn’t a piece about the “black perspective” of Lesley; it’s my perspective, and I just happen to be a black student.
When I first arrived at Lesley, I was told about how they had such a diverse community and campus. But my first month here, I kept thinking to myself, “Where is the diversity they were telling me so much about?” Yes, in some ways, the diversity at Lesley is present– but it depends on how you define the word. The University has people with many diverse thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. However, it lacks in having a truly diverse campus in the sense of the ethnic and racial backgrounds of students. Although this is something that is changing with each year, as new students join the community, the differences are very easy to notice. It’s important for myself because I came from a very diverse high school, with 4,000 students and very mixed classrooms. Coming from that environment to a predominantly white institution, it can feel weird at times. Looking in a classroom and trying to find someone you can identify with can be especially hard– not only as a black male, but as a male in general. This school has a larger female population, which again is another element we examine when thinking about the diverse nature of Lesley.
In the classroom, it can be frustrating as we speak about issues faced by minorities, and you can’t help but notice your peers looking for you to be the representative of your group. As I stated before, this is my perspective, so I can only offer my opinion on a matter, but it doesn’t mean it will fall in line with every other person of color’s beliefs on the matter. Often, we are reminded that we can’t be advocates for an entire group; but when you hear beliefs that are misinformed, there is some level of responsibility that must be recognized. My first year here I took a class being one of only two black students, and one of the seniors in the class asked me directly why “white people” aren’t allowed to the “N word” but black people are. I can also recall moments where being the only male in a class felt strange as we spoke about how all men act or behave, in a room filled with women.
Although we all have the right to speak out and disagree, it’s hard to be the only representative available to argue a point when everyone else can’t speak to having the “male experience”. I’m not saying that these experiences were good or bad; they were just examples where I noticed that a lack of diversity in the classroom was frustrating. In life, there are things that we may not like or wan to accept; however if we don’t express how we feel, and use our voices to explain where we are coming from, it makes things even more difficult.
I know that Lesley has been making an honest effort to be more inclusive and I do notice some improvements; in the past two years, I am seeing a much more diverse community than previously. I also notice the addition of more faculty on campus who are pushing for students to be aware of positionality, and to consider how diversity affects things outside of the classroom. As we move forward and continue to make this progress, students and faculty must allow ourselves to be open, and respectful to the different circumstances that others come from. The Director of Multicultural Affairs and Student Inclusion, as well as the Diversity Council, have been making important efforts to ensure that things are much better for all students, and that everyone feels welcome on this campus. If not for them, and the activism of the Lesley community, who’s to say what progress would have been made thus far? But more can be done. I would like to see the progress continue, and I am hopeful that Lesley will become the diverse campus I know it can be.