Columnist: UD isn’t ‘the happiest’ for everyone

By: Kwynn Townsend-Riley – Columnist

According to the most recent Princeton Review and many BuzzFeed lists, the University of Dayton is considered to be one of the happiest student bodies in the world.

UD was ranked sixth on a list of 20 top-tier institutions with the happiest students. According to The Huffington Post, the 2015-16 rankings are based on survey responses from more than 100,000 students at 380 colleges and universities.

If the Princeton Review asked me if I was happy, I would say no. I have four reasons why. Allow me to add this disclaimer: I was told not to write articles such as these anymore over the summer. Over the past years, I have built a certain reputation for my “fiery” articles that “tarnish the university reputation.” I was advised not to write articles such as these because of respectability politics. I currently have the privilege of being the director of campus unity for Student Government Association and am so grateful to finally have a chance to instigate real change for the underrepresented populations on campus.

To all campus partners of SGA, this article is not to personally attack you, but to bring attention to these situations. I am merely stating facts about what I experience and my opinion about it. This is why I am an opinions columnist. When I express these occurrences, as an African-American womyn, it is considered “fiery” or radical, but I will not stop. It is because of these articles that many situations on campus have been brought to light. Martin Luther King was “fiery,” Nelson Mandela was “fiery,” Bree Newsome, Julian Bond, Rosa Parks, Loretta Lynch, Marilyn Mosby, Gandhi – the list of people who were considered radical, fiery and rude goes on and on.

If being passionate about campus unity makes me “fiery,” then be prepared for me to continue to burn until social justice is achieved.

If being passionate about campus unity makes me “fiery,” then be prepared for me to continue to burn until social justice is achieved.

As an African-American student attending a predominantly white institution, I feel isolated. Shocking to some; astonishing, perhaps, seeing that this school is big on “community.” I feel isolated because I do not see many students, faculty or staff who look like me. Over the long course of four years, I have been in only three classes where I was not the only black person. Being the only black person in my classes, the residence halls, etc., can be depressing and comfortless. Please understand that I did befriend many of my lighter hued counterparts, or friends of different races. Finding friends is not the problem.

The problem is, with the lack of people of color on this campus, seeing someone that looks like me is my community.
Secondly, I am not a happy student because of the absence of classes geared toward diversity on campus. Because of the lack of African-American students, there are not that many classes geared toward us either. For example, I signed up for “African-American Literature,” which had to be canceled due to lack of enrollment. One class I was in, called “African-Americans in Film,” literally had five students in the classroom. There are not that many classes where I can learn about my people and our innumerable contributions to society. Moreover, there are not many events that celebrate our culture on this campus in general. Because I am an African-American womyn (womyn because I do not need a MAN to be one), many of my references will be from that point of view.

Thirdly, I am not happy as a student because of the covert racism on campus. Yes, racism does exist, and it exists on this campus. This is something that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. There was nothing said last year about the protests on Kennedy Union Plaza, nor the Yik Yak posts that were made afterward. The N-word was referenced, the KKK was referenced, as well as threats to stop the protest. (If anyone would like to see proof of these references, please email me at African-American students on this campus need support, emotionally.

Support can come from all areas, but it is needed for all students. As director of campus unity, I have noticed one major problem: lack of communication. Staying at the University of Dayton over the summer, I have witnessed many international students struggle with the language barrier. If this is going to be their home, we should be more welcoming, in their own languages.

Lastly, there need to be documents, literature and classes offered in bilingual form. I feel as if international students are forced to assimilate into a place that they are supposed to call “home.” If we provide literature, menus and support in all of the languages that are spoken on campus, I believe that would provide more comfort for the student body.

I am not happy, and I will not be until these issues are addressed.

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