Most Monday mornings, Eastern students can be found in the Jammin’ Java getting their coffee fix, in the library catching up on last minute homework for the week or often dragging themselves drowsily back to their dorms after an early class.
However, on Monday morning, April 4, the uncertainty was almost palpable in the full auditorium of McInnis Hall. Faculty, students and members of Eastern’s administration milled around and shifted their weight in anticipation near the doors and in the aisles.
They were all there for different reasons. Some came for clarity, some came for reconciliation, some came to be heard and some came to listen. The community forum was called last minute in response to an opinions article published in The Waltonian regarding Eastern’s high acceptance rate.
Many students were offended and felt marginalized by the article’s content, which they felt articulated a correlation between inner-city students and low academic standards at Eastern.
“There is no perfect time to address these things,” Vice President of Student Development Bettie Ann Brigham said. “As soon as it happened, I knew we needed to talk about it immediately.”
The forum began with formal introductions from members of Eastern’s administration who organized the event. Each spoke to the level of Eastern’s commitment to justice and the desire to facilitate constructive dialogue among members of the student community.
After specific ground rules and objectives were established, the floor was opened for students.
It was explicitly indicated by professor Monica Smith, who mediated the dialogue, that students should channel their responses toward expressing their internal reflections and that certain things were not free to address.
No time was wasted as student after student rose to take a microphone to express what turned out to be a diverse array of emotions. Some said they felt hurt, some relieved.
“I didn’t feel hurt. I felt encouraged to push myself even more,” Mike Jones, a senior from Camden, said.
A few students expressed an uncertainty of where they landed on this particular issue. Several elaborated on the belief that the article itself was not the issue, but that its content represented a systematically ingrained mindset of some members of Eastern’s community.
“We’ve all seen examples of this article, maybe not written but through behavior and actions of various people,” senior Jerome Scott said. “All it did was bring it to the surface.”
Junior Angeley Crawford, a psychology major from Brooklyn, was among the students who felt upset by the article. “I think what was revealed was a greater issue of what it means to be privileged. You cannot speak for me, and I cannot speak for you, but I would challenge someone to take off their shoes of privilege and try to dance where I dance,” Crawford said in a later interview.
Not everyone had something to say, but as the forum closed the apparent over-arching theme seemed to be a desire for the conversation to continue with a mind set of honesty and rigorous intentionality.
Brigham expressed that her strongest desire would be for people to share their opinions in a caring way. “We have so much work to do. Not just with students,” she said. “I trust our students and faculty to be open and honest with one another, and I believe that is accomplished through listening. It doesn’t stop here.”
We apologize for the lack of care we showed in publishing the opinion article entitled “An Unjust Acceptance Rate.” As a staff, we made mistakes in terms of good editorial practices such as careful research and accurate wording. We are evaluating and working to improve our practices and hope that good will result.
We would like to run a correction to the statement that “…statistically, low-income students from the inner-city may have lower test scores.” Amy Perez provided us with the following information: It should be noted, based on data from the College Board Report 2009, that the national average SAT scores for low-income and first generation students is lower (and there are many reasons for that). This national average includes students from rural, suburban and urban communities.