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Opinion | Students are also being marginalized by identity in higher-education

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A young adult studies at a coffee shop. Lower-class students often have to balance full-time college and work. // Photo courtesy of Tim Gouw via Unsplash

This story expands on an article about how college is inherently classist. Read the main story here.

Besides disparities caused by the class divide, colleges can marginalize people based on other identities. 

In 2019 the college population consisted of 42% students of color. Despite students of color making up a large percentage of the college population, these students can feel alienated.

Lana Winborn, graduate student and instructor of composition at Western Washington University, has witnessed this marginalization as a peer and as a teacher. 

“On several occasions, I have witnessed Black, Indigenous and other People of Color not offered safe spaces and resources when it comes to being a student within a predominantly white institution,” Winborn said via email.

Winborn said that often the student will end up seeking guidance from other people of color, professors, mentors and students who have been through similar experiences. 

“While this is great and builds relationships, it also adds emotional labor and stress to other people who may be going through similar experiences,” Winborn said. “The university should have resources in place so that the student does not have to seek these sources.”

Winborn herself has felt marginalized as a graduate student. Being the only person of color in a course, she had to advocate for herself and ask the professor to add more diverse texts to their curriculum. 

Winborn said the teacher added a text that was written and featured a Black woman, but did not do much preparation when it came to the discussion. 

“During class, all eyes felt like they were on me, and we ended up only discussing it for about 20 minutes before he had to move on because it was very awkward,” Winborn said. “I felt very isolated and felt as if I, again, had to constantly speak out about issues of race because no one else in my class, including the professor, were.”


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