By: Nomonde Gila, Contributor
College is a place where students from all walks of life come together to pursue their love for academics and explore not only their passions for various causes and careers, but also adulthood. When 2.2 million incoming freshmen prepare for university in the United States, they are commonly taught that university is the place where you will find your crowd, the place where you meet people that share your common interests and the environment where you are likely to fit in. Yet in a country where university acceptance rates are so polarized, the U.S. Department of Education reports that the best-funded 468 institutions accept 77 percent white students and 23 percent Black, Hispanic and other minority groups. This raises the question, do all students truly fit in?
At Furman, the student body 78.1 percent white, 5.4 percent black and 4.7 Hispanic and 11.7 percent other. This can make it even more difficult for minority students to fit in. When asked, “Do minority students fit in?” Furman sophomore, Zion Carroway reflects, “To me, fitting in means being in a comfortable social environment; a place where I can connect with other individuals from varying backgrounds, but most importantly, engage with people that can relate to me. However, in a university like Furman where the black community is so small, there are only a handful of other non-athletic black friends in my graduating class. As an athlete, meeting new people came with ease. However, as a former athlete, the pool of black students with similar interests automatically shrinks. It is hard to find a group of people that have a similar background to me, or truly understand and relate to where I come from.”
These concerns from the student body bring to light the social and emotional strain that comes with a low-diversity institution. More importantly, however, it creates a new perspective on the power of fitting in and the significance it holds in each student’s experience. As Furman pushes to pay more attention to increasing diversity rates, creating more safe spaces and focusing on overall inclusivity, it validates the sentiments of students like Carroway. We should encourage both students and our university to hold onto that search for social comfort, for it fuels future institutional initiatives that will improve diversity on campus.