About 6 months ago, the video We Are StFX was posted, generating positive conversation about the inclusivity and diversity of StFX as a school and a community. But, as one student pointed out to me, almost all of the people in that video are white.
When I first moved to Canada from small town Tennessee, I was looking forward to a Canadian college experience, filled with diversity and new ideas, and people from all walks of life. I was ready to meet other kids who, to some extent, shared my life experiences. Imagine my surprise when I got to campus and found the same racial diversity that I encountered in high school.
The question that I ask myself then is- did I mess up, and mislead myself into thinking that StFX was a diverse place, or is the school less white than I think it is, and I’m just naively missing the non-european culture here in Antigonish? But, as I spoke to students and faculty in the offices of Aboriginal Students, and Office of Students of African Descent, I learned I’m not the only “brown person” on campus who feels this way.
Terena Frances refers to students who come to her, saying that “I’m the only person who’s not white in my class!”, and two Education students both agree that the universities where they did their undergraduate degrees were both more diverse than StFX.
According to Martha Gaudet, Director of Internationalization, StFX is “not a diverse campus- we know that.” And, as noted by Religious Studies professor Ronald Charles, he is one of only 5 Black Professors on campus- and there’s only one Aboriginal professor.
Sure, there’s no exact record of how many racial minorities are on campus, because StFX doesn’t take a record of those numbers. The Registrar only has a count of Black and Aboriginal students- a very conditional list. “If [students] don’t self-identify, then they don’t get on my list,” Michael Fisher, Advisor to students of African Descent, tells The Xaverian. Students have to specifically opt-in to be noted by the school as a minority, so it’s impossible to get a hard number on how many people of color we have on campus.
Of course, just because we don’t have a large number of minorities, doesn’t mean that StFX isn’t inclusive of us, right? We’re still a part of the big X family.
Not so much. As one fourth year notes: “StFX works for people who are connected” to the area. It’s hard to fit in as a black kid from Toronto when you’re surrounded by kids whose families have been going to StFX since the 1910’s, and when the school fails to have visible minorities in the Faculty, Students Union, or in the Staff, it makes us feel a little bit outside.
“We’re on the outskirts- that’s not diversity,” notes an Education student. Another 3rd year says she feels that “If a few black people sit together in a class, they [white people] feel intimidated.”
Every student of color I spoke to agree on one thing- they don’t always feel included here, and the rare times that they do, it’s always based on something else. “They treat you different in Athletics- they want you to be aggressive there,” a 3rd year male student tells me, moments after he claims that “white people seem scared” of him.
When asked if she felt if X was a more inclusive community than her notably racially divided home, a 3rd year student told me. “It’s just like any other white community.” A far cry from the inclusivity we want to have at X, and a far cry from true diversity.