By: Abbey Morelli, News Editor
Furman celebrated Islam Awareness Week from Oct. 22
through Nov. 1. The Muslim Students Association held
numerous CLPs and hosted speakers to educate their peers. Juhee Bhatt, a senior political science and psychology major, learned that her photograph was being used to advertise Furman’s Islam Awareness week on Thursday, Oct. 18.
The photograph was captioned “Islam Awareness Week is free and open to the public.” She has no connection with this association on campus, nor is she Muslim. Bhatt took to Medium, an online open publishing platform, to voice her opinion on the matter. I sat down with her to discuss her motivations for writing the piece and her experience on Furman’s campus as a minority student.
Bhatt decided to publish an article to voice her opinion,
not realizing how expansive the response would be. In
her article, “The Gaps in the Furman Advantage,”
she discusses how Furman advertises the school to be
diverse, but this is not the reality. She discusses the ways
in which the university depicts minority students as tokens and uses them to promote inclusion and increase
“Lying about it and convincing minorities to come
into a space where they’re going to be marginalized
and called out on and be the spokesperson for whatever
they identify as, is hurtful and I don’t think it is worth
causing really painful damage to somebody who’s coming here under the impression that they’re gonna be safe and welcome, because the reality says that they’re not,” Bhatt said.
Bhatt talked about being a minority on campus and how
difficult it can be. “Furman told me that I would be safe
here and be included in all things. I felt safe, but I did not
feel included,” she said. Bhatt explained how minority students are often used to prove to prospective students that Furman is diverse. She refrained from joining a Greek life organization for this reason as well. “I would be the photograph, the picture,” Bhatt said.
Bhatt explained how much of this profiling occurs in the classroom. Professors will talk about slavery and look at the minority students in the room. Peers will ask her where the best Indian restaurant is in Greenville. She explained how these types of comments can be hurtful even if that is not the intention.
Bhatt says we can improve as a university by,“being more honest about where the school is in terms of diversity and inclusion… training faculty and professors to be more mindful of what they’re saying and who they are singling out.”
She wants to promote conversation. Her article has
circled campus. Bhatt has received numerous emails
from professors, some even passed out her article in class; students frequently say they would like to be an ally. Many students and professors asked Bhatt what actions they can take to raise awareness and be cognizant of their peers. The university as a whole should make their students’ safety a priority. This is lost when they are distracted by their image and how the school is perceived.
After her article was published, Juhee reports receiving an apology from the University Communications Vice President and the photograph was removed. She and fellow students are being given a ten minute slot at the
next faculty meeting to present about how professors can be more mindful and cognizant in the classroom. Her actions have caused people on campus to question how they treat minority students and have initiated discussion on the matter.