White Student Unions are not a necessity

So for today, I would like to address the rise in groups such as “White Student Unions” around the nation. My own undergraduate  institution has one. These are obviously necessary since these institutions were never historically for only White students and are no longer led by White individuals (particularly men) and no longer serve an enrollment of mostly White students…oh wait.

Okay, many individuals ask why there are groups such as a Black Student Union but no White Student Union. Why is there a Women’s Center but no Men’s Center. If you haven’t read yet about the fact that Time Does Matter, consider that for more than half of our history, institutions of Higher Education in the United States have been solely for Rich White Men. Even after admitting other classes, women and Students of Color, the institutions and the systems that they operate under were never essentially changed and operate in their original format – which was designed to support Rich White Men. Further, consider the amount of research suggesting that these students who have traditionally had these type of student unions face greater challenges not only in the form of microaggressions but in more overt ways as well. These experiences are often denied by their White Men counterparts which can further demoralize and challenge. The American Council on Education, however, notes the importance of diversity in education.

Another point of interest would be what Beverly Tatum notes as Critical Mass. Dr. Tatum notes that if students make up less than 11% of the population, they tend to connect and support one another. When a population reaches that Critical Mass, there is enough representation on campus where students from less visible groups feel comfortable expanding regularly beyond what may be viewed as their more traditional network (hence the title of Dr. Tatum’s book, ‘Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?’). To this point, I would encourage those students big on creating a ‘White Student Union’ to consider the fact that White students (here defined by White, non-latino) make up the largest part of their institutions in systems designed to support those White students, led by White individuals (almost entirely men) and where success is based on a White standard (look at the make up of the majority of faculty at these institutions or even at the staff often times). Going back to my Alma Mater, consider that no group besides White students make up more than 7% of the student body. This means that the ‘regular’ student union is already the White student union. In this particular case, consider who inhabits even the Witherspoon Student Center, named for the FIRST African-American Student Body President of the institution. While this is still shifting, during my time there (08-13) this space did house the Afrcan-American Cultural Center who were given a portion of the third floor, but the rest of the space belonged to SG (who have done some great work for diversity on campus, but have still been predominantly White), the campus cinema, and the campus media (which is mostly White as well).

Hopefully these considerations allow groups such as say Black Student Unions to make more sense in their function on current collegiate campuses. That is not to say these White student unions cannot exist, but the question arises of should they. If you still feel there is an imbalance suggesting that these groups (White Student Unions) are ‘required’ and ‘necessary’…well…


About rigsurfer

A Brother of Delta Upsilon International Fraternity, Inc., Joined in Fall 2010. Completed a B.A. in English at North Carolina State University in 2013 and received a M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration at Texas Tech University in 2015. Passionate about Leadership and Diversity as well as Ducks, Scooby Doo, and reading.
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