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Some People are Mad that Columbia is Having a Retreat for Students of Color

Columbia University is hosting a retreat for students of color—and while some people get that, other people still think it’s discriminatory, according to USA Today College. The Students of Color Leadership Retreat is an event put on in November by the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Columbia, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

“The SOCLR weekend is designed to fortify participants in their leadership at Columbia, Barnard and beyond, to focus on shared experiences, and to critically examine various issues and ‘isms’ that relate to living in a multicultural and diverse community,” according to the program’s website. 

Students at both Columbia and Barnard College can apply for the expenses-paid retreat, and according to the application, students must identify as African/African-American/Black, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Asian-American, Pacific Islander, Arab and Middle-Eastern, Native & Indigenous, or Multiethnic/Multiracial in order to participate. However, the racial identification question on the application takes the form of a text box rather than multiple choice, so students can write in any identity—and according to Columbia’s website, the “program is open to all undergraduates from Columbia and Barnard” consistent with the school’s non-discrimination policy. So if you’re white, and you really, really want to go to this, you can still apply.

This retreat sounds like an awesome way to for minority students, who are often underrepresented on their campuses, to build community and discuss their experiences. But, of course, some people don’t see it that way.

The College Fix, a right-wing online magazine by college students, considers the premise of the retreat to be anti-white. “Columbia University to host no-whites-allowed student leadership retreat,” is the title of their article about the retreat.

This is kind of like when Cal State University decided to open up a few rooms in one of their dorms just for black students. People are taking this perfectly reasonable weekend retreat and turning it into an example of a (false) attack on white people. Luckily, it doesn’t seem like Columbia cares at all about this backlash, and the retreat will still happen as planned.

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