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race relations at Wes

alizardaalizarda 105 replies8 threads Junior Member
edited October 2008 in Wesleyan University
I was talking to a friend of my parents' yesterday about colleges...I told him I was applying to Wesleyan, and he said that when his daughter (now 24) was looking at colleges, she considered Wesleyan. He said there were a lot of problems with campus race relations then and wondered if that was still the case. I was really shocked by that. I never heard that about Wes before - on the contrary, it seemed like a really open-minded and tolerant place. Can anyone tell me if there were any issues 7 years ago and if it's still a problem? Or maybe he was just getting it mixed up with another college she considered, this was a while ago....
edited October 2008
7 replies
Post edited by alizarda on
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Replies to: race relations at Wes

  • madjoymadjoy 619 replies6 threads Member
    That's a tough question to answer.

    One important thing: for whatever race problems may take place here, at least students at Wesleyan are very open to talking about them. There is constant discussion and engagement about the topic.

    There are some problems that are similar to elsewhere in the world, but are still serious problems: racism on the part of law enforcers, occasional hate speech (though this is met with almost universal outrage from the campus), and self-segregation of students. There are obviously more problems, too.

    Still, I certainly don't think issues of race here are worse than at other schools / elsewhere in the world - and, like I said, at least the subject is actively engaged and criticized and discussed.
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  • Gabs91Gabs91 468 replies45 threads Member
    Good question!
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  • johnwesleyjohnwesley 4473 replies137 threads- Senior Member
    Race relations at Wesleyan are generally good in the sense that students are given the freedom to maintain whatever associations they want with each other without a lot of peer pressure.

    However, any discussion of the topic would be incomplete without some reference to the fairly significant non-college population that either resides downtown (next to where Wesleyan is located) or which finds its way to Middletown (it's a straight shot from both Hartford and New Haven) when the rest of the town is shut down at night.

    The stance taken by the local police to the downtown community is a variant of the kind of "zero tolerance" policy that was made popular by New York's former Chief of Police, now Chief of Police of Los Angeles, William Bratton. Essentially, it is to crack down heavily on so-called "quality of life" violations which may involve almost any activity -- from jay-walking to playing loud music -- taking place outside the confines of your own home.

    I am emphatically NOT blaming the police for this, but, the streets in Middletown do tend to be deserted once the many, admittedly friendly and convenient, stores, shops and restaurants of the city close for the night.

    I am a frequent visitor to Middletown and I don't think I've ever seen a playground or public basketball court. An after-school arts program did open a few years ago. My sense is that for many residents nightlife takes on a furtive, almost opportunistic quality from very early on.

    The situation complicates race relations in a number of ways. For Wesleyan students, particularly people of color, it presents the familiar problem of "who's side are you on?". Many students have traveled a long way just to escape the kinds of incipient inner-city problems they fear looming in Middletown. Others see it as an opportunity for community service. It is almost an article of faith that nothing happens in Middletown without heavy involvement by Wesleyan.

    For some whites -- not all, but, some-- there is the specter of crime and the fact that you can't always tell who is a student and who isn't. Some perps are white. Some are black. The amazing thing is that despte it all, Wesleyan somehow manages to maintain one of the most feverish social and cultural scenes of any liberal arts college in the country.

    So, that's it. I'm sure there is more to discuss. I just thought we would be remiss not to include this part. :)
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  • WeskidWeskid 1286 replies2 threads Senior Member
    I'd say Wes IS an open minded and tolerant place. There is, I will admit, a fair amount of self-segregation by minority students (which is helped by university sponsored program houses like Malcolm X-House, Asian-America House, etc). But that’s an individual choice thing: it’s not like minority students are shunned or overtly made to feel uncomfortable by non-minority students. I personally would love there to be less self-segregation, but many minority students seem to find the minority communities at Wes empowering as they are.

    Part of the perception that there are race problems at Wes might come from the fact that, as madjoy said, Wes is a place where this stuff is talked about, extensively, so the general student body is very aware of any institutionalized racism that might exist on the part of/within the University. So, I think you’re more likely to HEAR about race problems (and ones pertaining to other minorities too) here than at many other schools, but I don’t think that means that there are actually MORE problems (probably it means there are less, because some things do get addressed).

    But yeah, basically, I don’t know why your friend had that perception (maybe something was up 7 years ago that I don’t know about?). Wes isn’t perfect, no place is, but we’re very open and people don’t stay silent about the problems that do exist, which I think is mainly productive.

    ETA: Johnwesley is right; Middletown DEFINITLY has race problems, at that can sometimes effect students in various ways (though not enough that it should stop anyone from coming to the school or anything, IMO).
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  • alizardaalizarda 105 replies8 threads Junior Member
    Thanks everyone for the detailed replies. I know that, sadly, race is definitely still an issue in America. I kind of got thrown for a loop by that comment though, like apparently it made a big enough impression on him that he mentions it 7 years later. I guess maybe, like you suggested, the combination of problems in Middletown and the social awareness of the students made the race relations particularly stand out to him, I don't know.

    But from your replies it seems like race is an issue at Wesleyan as it is everywhere, but not any worse (and possibly better because of open dialogue) than other colleges. So thanks for giving me your insights, and if my perception's wrong in any way please let me know. You've made me feel a lot less nervous, i gotta admit i was weirded out and kinda sad when i heard that, b/c i really like Wesleyan =)
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  • VivoConEsperanzaVivoConEsperanza 2 replies0 threads New Member
    madjoy- can you elaborate on the racism on the part of law enforcers? I can deal with hate speeches and self-segregation, but law enforcement might be too big an issue for me to seriously consider Wesleyan.
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  • necubinecubi 9 replies0 threads New Member
    I would say such claims are a bit overblown, or should at least be taken in context of the very socially-aware nature of many of the students. I think it's almost a situation where some students are looking so hard for oppression by authority that they see it when it really isn't there.
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