A Letter to Furman
A heartfelt letter to Furman seeks to change hearts of students regarding changes proposed in the Diversity Initiative.
Being a Furman University student is a title that I wear with honor and pride. Whenever I travel wearing my Furman gear, I almost always receive a warm smile and a “Hey my ____ goes there!” or listen to a story about a loved one and their connection to our school. Furman to me means family and tradition, and as a soon to be alumna, I want to be a part of the active change that happens on campus.
When I think of integrity, change and promise, my mind immediately goes to Joseph Vaughn, the first African-American to attend Furman University and one of my personal heroes. Without him, I and many other Black students would not have been afforded the opportunities we have today. This is why I take Student Leadership Initiatives to heart. When wanting to seek change, you have to start with the person in the mirror and become the active change.
I was delighted to have the Student Leadership Campus Diversity Initiative brought to me because it further affirmed my beliefs and promises for the Furman community -- that we are a space of love, light and inclusion. It brings me great joy to know that I and so many of my peers want to leave a lasting legacy for diversity students who come after us, like Joseph Vaughn did for us.
There were three recommendations made from the students to the Administration. The first, that one of the Human Behavior General Education Requirements (GERs) be replaced with a Diversity GER. I think this is a great idea, because this would allow students to learn about people of different cultures and backgrounds that they may have not been introduced to otherwise. This gives an opportunity to gain knowledge about global fluency, and allows for people to learn about the world. One of the most meaningful classes I have taken at Furman has been my Introduction to Islam class.
During this semster I also had a professor who is Muslim, and told us many stories about injustices that are faced in their community. This brings me to another recommendation made by the students, advocating to increase the percentage of religious minorities in both student and faculty rosters to be in line with peer institutions. Learning about the experiences of religious minorities first hand made me consider the similarities in the injustices I’ve faced as a Black woman, and pushed me to continue to read and ask more questions. This is what I want every Furman student to do -- to put themselves in an uncomfortable position so that they might be able to grow.
Lastly, students recommended implementing a diversity CLP requirement. This would be helpful because students would be able to sit back, listen and then join in on dialogue about a topic or culture they are unfamiliar with in a safe and encouraging space. I have had the opportunity to talk with professors from different universities after CLPs about their areas of expertise and why they are influential. My favorite CLP was hosted by The Student League for Black Culture, an organization on campus which promotes awareness and education of Black culture. The CLP was about Black Linguistics or African-American Vernacular English. This helped me immensely in explaining my own Philadelphia dialect to my Southern friends. These immersive experiences are what make Furman like no other, and would continue to foster a space of community for future students.
I deeply urge students to sign on to this initiative, and continue to be considerate of diverse students' truths and experiences. Furman is a place like no other, and has truly been a home away from home during my last three years. My senior wish is that these recommendations be taken seriously and implemented, so that the Furman of tomorrow will be better for all.