Black Student Union at the Rams Rally Respect 2021.

Shepherd University: Creating a Safe Space for Black Students

As the spring semester rises and students focus on classes, the diversity on campus isn’t met as much as students would like in the eyes of many Black students on campus. Some Black students say the university could provide better resources for them as minorities.

Being in a predominately white space, many African American students would like to see more professors, faculty and staff who look just like them. Although many of the students said they were fine with the atmosphere, others said they didn’t feel at home.

Breanna Chambers and Fatou Conteh study on campus.

Black students were asked if they believed Shepherd University represented them or people of their race. The responses were quite mixed. Kennedy Ntiamoah said, “I want to say to a certain extent. When it comes to football, they kind of represent us because we’re doing something for the school. We’re putting our bodies on the line, but we don’t get treated well being an athlete and being a student.”

A senior and a criminal justice major, Ntiamoah touched on his experiences as an athlete. He hopes the university can provide the players with better resources and necessary tools needed for the team. He added, “They say Shepherd is a historical town that can’t be touched, but there are certain things that need to be changed if they’re going to try and attract more diverse people and student athletes.”

Sports Communication major and junior Gerald Wright said, “Shepherd doesn’t represent us as much as they should.” As an athlete, he said that goes for parts of campus life other than sports. Clarence Eggleston, a sophomore, agreed with Wright. He said that Black athletes are the minority students who are most valued on campus.

I asked other minority students what they believe that Shepherd should implement to make sure they’re better represented. A Health Promotion and Exercise Science major, Devon Lynch said, “If people want to come here and be a normal student here with studies, it’s important for everybody to work here and be successful. I think it’s more of the fact it’s the location and where we are.”

Joshua Kamara. Photo by Kayla Blake

When it comes to a medical approach, Joshua Kamara, the only Black male nurse on campus said, “One thing that Shepherd could implement is a Black historic library or a space on campus for students to lounge in. I’m a strong believer of you have to know your culture to know where you’re going.” He added there aren’t enough professors who represent his complexion.

For a women’s perspective, Alexis Holmes, a sophomore on campus, provided her thoughts. She said, “Black students should have more representation in Greek Life.” As a junior who has been a part of the Ram family for three years, she would like to see a Black fraternity and sorority on campus. Dayana Quaye agreed with that statement and said if there were a sorority that represented people of her race she would pledge.

Cam Colwell, a Business Administration major and sophomore here at Shepherd believes that Shepherd should have events that are tailored toward Black students in general and that promote BSU, Shepherd’s Black Student Union, heavily.

Malik Holloway, in his fourth year here at Shepherd, is an athlete majoring in Recreation and Sports Studies with a concentration in Sports Marketing. He thinks most of campus is tailored toward White students and not minorities.

Jaiya Smith, a Nursing major, believes that Shepherd should push diverse clubs more on campus and could put more effort into highlighting BSU. She added that emails should be sent out to bring light to the diverse clubs on campus.

Computer Engineering major Avaughn Holley believes that there should be more efforts to uplift the Black students on campus. He added, “Hold events that would be driven for Black audiences and give our Black students an upper hand in [organizing] things.” When it comes to his statement, Business Management major Enelil Pena agreed and believed changes should be made.

Xavier Brown. Photo by Kayla Blake

Students were also asked if they think Shepherd University has a diverse mix of African American students on campus. Students such as Emmanuel Thomas and Kharis Burcker believed that there aren’t enough Black students on campus. In fact, many of the students interviewed agreed. However, Political Science major Alanzo Perry believed that Shepherd does a fine job with the diverse mix of Black students on campus.

Chrislynne Bard, a Nursing major and a junior here on campus, had another observation. She said, “We get all our numbers from recruiting athletes. As far as diversity, there isn’t a broad spectrum of us on campus to begin with. There aren’t that many students on campus that really want to do stuff. How are you going to understand what organizations are about if you don’t go?”

She added that when it comes to many of the diverse groups on campus, they aren’t provided a secluded space for only a specific race or ethnicity because student clubs and organizations can’t exclude anyone based on race, ethnic origin or gender.

Mitchell Dove, a member of the Shepherd football team and a freshman, noted that there isn’t a diverse mix of Black students on campus, but he also stated, “The school tries to make little events to support us minorities, but for the most part, the majority of the diverse students play sports.”

Many Black students think change is needed to improve their experiences of their peers. They seek improvement within Shepherd’s community and want to have input. They hope to be a part of the change that will make Shepherd more diverse. As a Black student from Jamaica, much change is needed to improve the wants of Black students. I hope this will be Shepherd’s future.

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