Mount Holyoke has a diversity problem. While we score above the national average in terms of racial and ethnic diversity in our student body, students of color do not see this diversity reflected in our classrooms, and rarely see ourselves represented in the faculty that teach our classes. This problem is particularly apparent in the history department, where there is not a single black professor in the faculty of nine.
On Feb. 11, six students plastered the history department with posters highlighting its lack of diversity. While some have attempted to frame this as a protest, it should be clear that was not our intention. Rather, we simply aimed to raise awareness about a problem within the department and the larger Mount Holyoke community, and start the conversation about what can be done to address this issue.
At Mount Holyoke, we pride ourselves on our supposed diversity and our desire to create a more just world for all those who live in it while seeking to dismantle all systems of oppression. It is not enough to say that we are diverse, that we are intersectional feminists, that we value representation and everyone having a seat at the table, if we are not able show this in our actions. It is not enough to be diverse in name only. As a community we need to do better and be better. While we see a diversity of students, and a diversity in the classes that are taught, we do not have a diversity of the voices who are teaching these classes. In the history department, we have classes on African and African American history, but no black professors to teach them.
At times, the professors who do teach these classes do not have the sensitivity and awareness to teach with enough respect to the cultures that they are teaching about, and with enough respect to the people from these cultures. Students should not have to sit through classes where teachers use racial slurs and insensitive language. Students should not be talked down to and have their lived experiences ignored and devalued; they should not be tokenized and asked to represent their racial or ethnic group, or to speak for their entire community.
If Mount Holyoke prides themselves on being a diverse community with a wide range of voices represented, we need to stop talking about diversity and start taking direct action. As Mount Holyoke students who see ourselves as engaged in important issues related to race, representation and intersectionality, we need to start putting our ideologies into practice and holding our community accountable for the disparity between our words and our actions.
– Tumi Moloto ’20, Anpa’o Locke ’21, and Emily Roles Fotso ’21