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Universities offer segregated back-to-school events

Back-to-school activities kicked into high gear in recent weeks as the fall semester began, and in addition to the typical orientations that greet all students, several universities hosted additional events specifically for black students.

They’re billed as ways to enhance black students’ experiences on campus and get them comfortable and involved with their schools.

While segregation of the past has a negative connotation, today its general definition — to set apart from the rest, isolate or divide — describes what’s going on at universities in which special events are designed for students of color, and often specifically for black students.

California State University Fresno recently held a three-day student retreat for black students, for example. The $16,000 undertaking in August included a trip to a water park, skits, and talks of encouragement from professors and peers.

It was hosted so that “new and continuing African-American students, along with African-American faculty, staff and alumni, could exchange ideas of how to create a greater sense of belonging on campus,” according to Fresno State President Joseph Castro.

George Mason University also recently hosted a “Black Freshman Orientation” that sought to “introduce the incoming freshman class to George Mason from the perspective of Black students,” according to a description of the event on the school’s website.

“We feel that it is important to begin cultivating community and building traditions early in the school year so that the foundation can be built upon as the year progresses,” the website stated.

At the University of Wisconsin Madison on Sept. 11 there was a “Students of Color Welcome BBQ.” The invite stated that while all students are welcome, the event was “intended for self-identified people of color.”

This trend underscores another one found today in campus housing. Several universities, including — Cal State LA, UConn, San Francisco State and others — now offer dorm wings for black students.

While technically these black-themed housing options are open to all students, they offer a way for black students to live with one another, in effect creating modern self segregation.

MORE: Universities, students of color embrace segregated spaces on campus

MORE: Black students demand segregated spaces from white students

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About the Author
William Nardi