During the Fall 2017 semester, 15 students took RHCS 412 Digital Memory & the Archive, a course exploring the intersections of history, memory, and archival research into UR history. The final project for this course was a team effort to use archival materials and other resources to craft a narrative related to the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project. Focusing on the experiences of black student athletes and other minority athletic groups in the 1970s and 1980s, Tegan Helms, Erin Tyra, and Caleb Ward created a podcast which includes an interview with Richmond College ’77 alum Rayford L. Harris, Jr. Using archival research, interviews, and their own experiences to piece together university history, the team found that the current state of the archive replicates structural inequalities. In their own words:
In Jarrett Drake’s speech, “Documenting Dissent in the Contemporary College Archive: Finding our Function within the Liberal Arts,” Drake challenges the functions of liberal arts institutions by arguing that “…the implicit function of the liberal arts college is to reproduce structural inequality.” We support Drake’s claim that liberal arts colleges perpetuate inequality through what is archived, who creates the archival material, and most importantly, what is left out of the archive. The Race & Racism Project at the University of Richmond exists to fill in the gaps of what is missing from the university’s archived history to help combat the structural inequality Drake argues exists. Although the University is now taking a new approach to put the pieces of history together, our sources still remain somewhat unreliable in revealing the entire scope of what really occurred during such crucial times. The university’s history will thus remain incomplete and inaccurate if we do not go back in time, critically analyze the third-party accounts, and hear from people like Rayford Harris and Tegan Helms about their experiences. The athletic culture at the University of Richmond has always and will continue to exist as a crucial component to the institution’s pride, reputation, and values, but the current records suggest otherwise, revealing the disconnect between archival sources on this campus.
Tegan Helms is a senior from Wilton, Connecticut, majoring in Rhetoric and Communication Studies and minoring in Visual and Media Arts Practices. Erin Tyra is a senior from Santa Fe, New Mexico, double majoring in Psychology and Rhetoric and Communication Studies. Caleb Ward is a junior from Hampton, Virginia, and is majoring in Rhetoric and Communication Studies.