According to statistics from Dr. Andy Pratt, vice president for social responsibility and engagement, out of 997 students at William Jewell College this year, 785 are white.
Of the remaining students, 43 identify as two or more races, 41 are Hispanic/Latinx, 40 are Black/African-American, 25 are unknown, 12 are Asian, one is Indigenous American/Indigenous Alaskan and one is Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
Each year, using this data, the college calculates a diversity percentage. The percentage is the non-Caucasian students—excluding the non-residential and unknown categories—divided by the total number of students. In 2014, the percentage was 16.1 (20.5 including non-residential students. In 2015, the percentage was 15.2 (19.75 including non-residential students) and in 2016, the diversity of the college was 13.8 percent (18.8 percent including non-residential students).
To put these statistics in perspective, below are diversity statistics from two of Jewell’s aspirant schools: St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn and Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. For the year 2016, the domestic multicultural percentage for St. Olaf College was 17.7 percent “of total student body” and 19.5 “of known domestic students.” For Hendrix College, the minority enrollment for fall 2016 was 21 percent. Jewell’s diversity, based on these percentage calculations, is lower than both of these schools.
In addition to being less diverse than its aspirant colleges, Jewell’s diversity has also decreased over the last three years. While lower enrollment and higher tuition costs might account for some of this decreased diversity, they are not the only causes. The number of multicultural groups on a college campus is often a determining factor for students of color in their college decision. While Hendrix and St. Olaf College have 10 and 13 multicultural groups respectively, Jewell has three: the Black Student Association (BSA), the International Student Association (ISA) and the newly formed group for Hispanic/Latinx students, Mi Gente (Mi Gente means “my people” in Spanish). Using a wider definition of multicultural, QUILTBAG and Feminist Club would also be included on this list, bringing the total to five.
Seeing a clear need for increased representation for Hispanic/Latinx—the gender neutral term for Latino/Latina—students on campus, Abram Fernandez, senior philosophy and history double major, started and serves as president of Mi Gente, the newest multicultural group on campus.
“I think there is a problem with under representation on this campus regarding Latinos/Hispanics in general,” Fernandez said, “and I felt like there needed to be a place for other Hispanics/Latinx students on this campus to gather in solidarity with one another, especially in response to the recent political turmoil in the country.”
Fernandez is referencing the recent presidential election, in which now-President Donald Trump made several comments about Mexicans, most infamously saying “They’re [Mexicans are] rapists.”
Fernandez’s fears of political turmoil are not unfounded. As of Dec. 12, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group that combats hate, has tracked 1,094 bias-related incidents since the U.S. Presidential election.
Fernandez said that he wants the club to be a space where Latinx students on campus don’t feel alone. As for long-term goals, Fernandez would like to see the club do more to promote Latinx culture.
“Long-term, I want the club to embrace Latino and Hispanic culture as a whole and bring awareness to aspects of our culture that we are proud about to this campus, as well as dealing with issues of racism towards Latinos, not only in the country, but also sorts of microaggressions this campus itself holds against us,” Fernandez said.
Microaggressions are defined as casual, often unconscious insults or dismissals that, when accrued, further systems of oppression. Examples include asking people of color where they are from or saying ladies first.
Through Mi Gente, Fernandez wants to see Jewell students come to terms with their implicit biases and microaggressions.
“It’s just the small things that they can do for individuals, like if you’re friends with a Latino or Latina or Latinx student, that’s all fine and great.” Fernandez said, “Don’t tokenize us, don’t ask us to help you with your Spanish homework out of the blue just because you find out that we are Latino, Latina, Latinx or Hispanic and automatically assume that we know Spanish or that we want to help you for free.”
Fernandez is the President of Mi Gente; the rest of the cabinet includes MaryAlice Howser as Vice-President, Daniela Huerta Marin as Secretary, Marco Antonio Martinez Lopez and Thais Valeria Quiroga as Event Coordinator. Thais Valeria Quiroga, sophomore Oxbridge history of ideas and international relations major, also spoke with the Monitor about her role as event coordinator.
“Since we became a recognized on-campus student organization, Mi Gente has focused on creating events that showcase Latin-American culture and discussed the stereotypes often associated with our culture,” Quiroga said. “In the future, we hope to establish a formal connection with Jewell’s Admission Office, to reach out to members of Latinx communities that may be interested in attending Jewell.”
Last week, for their first formal event, Mi Gente hosted a movie night. They showed “No se aceptan devoluciones” or “Instructions not Included,” a quirky but heartwarming Mexican film. The event pulled a crowd; Fernandez and Quiroga were pleased.
“Throughout the rest of the semester we are looking forward to hosting Latin-American food and game nights, watching the Mexico-Puerto Rico soccer match and creating awareness of our presence at Jewell,” said Quiroga.
Though Jewell still doesn’t meet the level of diversity or have as many multicultural groups as some of its aspirant schools, groups like Mi Gente help to create awareness of cultures many Jewell students wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise.
“We are not here to be inflammatory, we are not here to be particularly reactionary; [we are] aside from reactionary only in a sense that we are reacting to hate and aggression towards us, where we see it, but we are here to bring a wider understanding of who we are, who we see ourselves as and what our culture means to us,” Fernandez said.
Mi Gente meets on a bi-weekly basis: Wednesdays at 6pm in the PLC. For more information visit their Facebook page.
BSA meets on Thursdays at 7pm in YGSU 210.
QUILTBAG meets on Tuesdays at 8pm in the PLC.
WJC Feminists meets on Mondays at 7:15pm in YGSU 210.
More information on the International Students Association of William Jewell College can be found on their Facebook page.