“I, too, am Bucknell” highlights diversity

Cooper Josephs, Writer

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“I, Too, Am Bucknell,” a social media campaign, was launched on Tumblr to raise awareness and facilitate open discussion about the campus climate of minority students on campus.

The launch of the social media campaign came a week after University President John Bravman revealed the University’s Five Year Plans for Diversity and during the midst of Diversity Pride Week.

Inspiration for the campaign was derived from the “I, Too, Am Harvard” movement,  initiated by Harvard student Kimiko Matsuda-Lawrence. The project used the popular social media website Tumblr as its interface, showing poignant pictures of students holding up whiteboards with provocative questions and statements on them.

Instead of focusing solely on African-American students, as something that had been done in the original project, the University’s branch included gender, race, sexuality, class, religion, and political views. The University is one of the first universities to create a movement stemming from Harvard’s idea to bring awareness about important issues relating to the campus climate.

The “I, Too, Am Bucknell” movement has been a joint effort between The Office of Multicultural Student Services (MSS) and Common Ground. The movement came into fruition through collaboration between graduate student Jessica Slagle and Shaneka Dixon ’15.

“I gained interest in the project when I came across the ‘I, Too, Am Harvard’ and ‘I, Too, Am Oxford’ and I definitely felt like I could talk to some students on campus who probably felt the same way. I was curious about how some students felt being in a predominately white college,” Dixon said.

Vincent Stephens, director of MSS, explained that there is a finer line than just being in the “minority” or the “majority” on campus.

“It’s not just about structural diversity, but creating an atmosphere that feels inclusive … The ideal situation is a community where students feel included and secure from the moment they are in orientation,” Stephens said.

The Tumblr page has been viewed around 3,500 times and continues to gain popularity and momentum.

“[The images] show the diversity that we don’t always acknowledge … It makes you think about your fellow classmates in a different way. It reiterates how you really shouldn’t be making certain assumptions about people,” Bobby Cowen ’17 said.

He initially viewed the Tumblr page because it appeared on his Facebook feed.

The campaign is not the final answer in establishing of an open space where students can talk about sensitive ideas, but rather it is a stepping stone which is the first of many.

“It boosted my self-esteem seeing how many ‘likes’ the campaign has received and that people are listening to the messages that were on there. I really hope that the people who liked it had a conversation with someone and that the conversation went well,” Dixon said.

Pictures were taken from Monday through Thursday last week in the student space of the Elaine Langone Center. The event attracted a multitude of participants and volunteers.

“I’m an international student so that pushed me towards this campaign to show despite my background I am Bucknell as well,” Esra Sardag ’14 said.

Participants and students on campus shared similar thoughts and feelings about the Tumblr page.

“I took part because I think the dominant social environment of Bucknell can at times be conformist and antagonistic to those who don’t blend in or look like everybody else. My favorite people at Bucknell–and the people who I think contribute the most to this campus–are the ones who stick out and don’t fit the mold, and unfortunately they’re also the ones who get harassed for being different,” Morgan Greenly ’15 said.

While a table will no longer be set up in the ELC for pictures to be taken, students who want to be involved in the project are still able to.

“One of the big things we are focusing on in our office is that the programs we sponsor are student owned, run, and desired. If there are students out there who have thoughts about it and want to make it better or want to continue it … hopefully I can pass it off to them,” Dixon said.

An influential factor Dixon and Slagle both felt enticed them to go through with the project was to address various microaggressions felt by minority students on campus. The Microaggression Theory, constructed by Harvard psychiatrist Chester Pierce in the 1970s, manifests the implicit inequality minorities continue to experience in modern day America.

“The premise is that there are little things people say and do, and they can accumulate and make people feel marginalized,” Stephens said.

“I think a lot of students and faculty do feel marginalized here … there is definitely a level of ignorance that shouldn’t be at this level in our lives. I believe we should be much more informed,” Slagle said.

Dixon plans to generate posters of the pictures on Tumblr and place them throughout campus prior to the finals period.

“Stop trying to make us feel like we don’t belong here, because we do, and we’re not going anywhere. We, too, are Bucknell,” Greenly said.

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