5 Ways to Make Your PWI More "Woke"

It's important that students of color and students in the LGBTQ+ community feel at home on their own campus instead of visitors.  When students go to college, they attend it so it can be their home away from home. I know from going to a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) myself that many students of color have thought of transferring to a different school at least once because of one reason: comfort. I was one of those students my freshman year. Minority students don't feel comfortable because they don't always feel included. So, here five suggestions for programs that PWIs should implement to make sure all feel at home on their own campus instead of like visitors.

  1. 1. Educate

    The very first thing that needs to be done is educating the student population on how to address someone from a different background of their own. They should also know the kind of language they absolutely cannot use. Basically, people need to become more culturally competent. Not only this but also addressing people in the LGBTQ community. If you're unsure what gender a person identifies with, don't ask, “what are you?” Instead ask, “what pronouns do you use?” It’s the little things.

  2. 2. Anti-Racism Training

    There should also be some type of Anti-Racism training to teach students and faculty how not to be racist. The curriculum for this program should be meticulously developed and offered at colleges, universities, and organizations so students and faculty can go through several workshops and hypothetical situations to bring awareness to the different forms of racism. This training should be centered around helping people recognize all forms of racism from subtle racism such as microaggressions to racism on a systemic level.

  3. 3. Multicultural Center

    There needs to be a place where students of color and LGBTQ+ folks can go to feel safe. They shouldn't be small centers hidden in the bottom of a basement, but someplace noticeable. Also, in these multicultural centers, there need to be counselors that people of color and LGBTQ+ folks can confide to when issues of racism or injustice occur.

    Moreover, the multicultural centers should have a large library section of books, music, and DVDs on African-American, Latin-American, Asian, Native American, LGBTQ+ studies, etc. There shouldn't just be books on Martin Luther King Jr. but from multiple points of view like Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. There should be books on historical figures from several multicultural backgrounds so that everyone’s voice is represented. Multicultural Centers would be another educational tool and a way to promote inclusivity and diversity at a PWI.

  4. 4. More Representation

    There needs to be more representation inside the classrooms. There should be more professors from different social and ethnic backgrounds. With all white teachers, students are learning virtually everything from the white perspective. There needs to be more diversity in faculty members so that students can learn from several perspectives.

  5. 5. Changing the Curriculum

    Many colleges and universities require students to take general education courses to graduate, so why not require at least two semesters of multicultural courses? For example, a student could take one semester on African-American history and another semester on Latin-American film and literature to fulfill their requirement. Also, in general, books read in the classroom should have more diversity. Not just in characters, but the authors shouldn't simply be "straight dead white dudes." Representation matters.

Overall, educating others and ourselves in several different ways is the most important task. Even if this topic does not affect you directly, we should all practice empathy and make it our civic responsibility to achieve inclusivity not only at PWIs but also in the world.