The Urgency of Black Social Spaces on Campus

by Ayele d’Almeida

Ayele d’Almeida is a Political Science and Leadership double-major from Bloomington, Minnesota. Her work at Common Ground, the University of Richmond’s social justice initiative informed her decision to pursue the Race & Racism Project as a summer fellow. She hopes that through her fellowship and continued connection with the project, she will learn more about the University of Richmond. Ayele believes that the Race & Racism Project will also help later in life – as the project forces her to question institutions she may benefits from. She hoped to focus her research on black faculty and the presence of black students in white-dominated clubs and spaces.

Ayele d’Almeida interviews Stan Jones (R’81) with assistance from Jacob Roberson, June 20, 2018

I started my search for information on Stan Jones with a simple Google search: “Stan Jones University of Richmond.” My task was to research Mr. Jones–a 1983 graduate– before our oral history interview for the Race & Racism Project. The very first link was his LinkedIn profile, which would eventually send me down a rabbit hole of questions and digging about social spaces that welcome black students. Fortunately for me, Stan Jones’ entire professional career was laid out on his profile. Unfortunately, the questions that I had about his experience at the University of Richmond could not be answered in the small, 15- word summary on Mr. Jones’ LinkedIn page. I was interested in the experiences with that could not be shorted into a time span.

“Football, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Society of Collegiate Journalists” – these were the activities listed on Stan Jones’ LinkedIn page. I narrowed my focus on his fraternity. Phi Beta Sigma, which is a historically black Fraternity, I thought that it was interesting that there may have been a black fraternity on campus during Jones’ time. In my mind, learning more information about the presence of very specific black spaces would inform my knowledge of social experiences for black students. With these questions in mind, I searched the Race & Racism Project digital collection for Jones’ Fraternity. I found an article from 1980 entitled “Phi Beta Sigma Colonizes New Fraternity at Richmond” that describes the potential addition of the fraternity to the campus. The article brings to the light the need for black social spaces on campus.

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Contradicting Thoughts

[For the first blog post of the Summer 2018 A&S Research Fellowship, students were tasked with exploring the existing collection of the Race & Racism at UR Project at memory.richmond.edu and reflecting on the materials they encountered there.]

by Tucker Shelley

Tucker Shelley is a rising senior at UR from Burlington, Vermont. He is a member of the Theta Chi fraternity on campus. In his free time, Tucker prefers staying active and listening to good music. This is his first summer working on the Race & Racism Project and will continue similar work next semester for Dr. Maurantonio in the “Digital Memory and the Archive” course.

I recently just checked out the Race & Racism Project website to explore projects done by students in the class “Digital Memory and the Archive.” I also thought this was particularly intriguing for me as I am taking that course next semester and am excited to continue to pursue these projects. I took a look at a bunch of the projects, but the one that really caught my eye was the podcast called “A Campus Divided.” This is a podcast made as part of the project that addresses issues with athletes, particularly black athletes, and the social environment harbored at UR in the 1970s and 80s.

They begin the podcast by explaining that through their archival research, that the school had a community that was divided between athletes and non athletes. They cited an all star black athlete, one of the first on campus, saying that it was difficult for the university to recruit black athletes as they felt they had no place in the social life on campus. This was verified by Collegian articles from back then, but their interview with a black alum by the name of Rayford L. Harris, Jr. on his days at the university refuted those claims. He said he never felt that kind of discrimination and was actually invited to join the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. One cause for this might be because he was a day student and lived off campus. He could have been more distant from campus life than a residential student. I side more with the Collegian given what I have seen during my time on campus.

I knew next to nothing about the University of Richmond before arriving on campus. My Aunt recommended that I apply, as it is a prestigious liberal arts institution. I had never heard of it, as it is not very popular north of Boston, but decided to apply anyways. It was the best school I was accepted to and I fell in love with the campus on my first visit. However, since then I have learned a lot about the social structure on campus. The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that black students aren’t represented to the extent they should be. Greek organizations control the social nightlife on campus. Historically, and especially in a conservative suburb of Richmond, these are typically white organizations. These organizations, including mine (Theta Chi), often don’t allow athletes into their events. This is due to disrespect we have been shown by them with their conduct at said events. We had a couple instances in which our brothers were physically assaulted by athletes and friends they bring. Thus we thought it would be in our best interest to ban athletes from our events. However, on campus, I have realized that the words “black” and “athlete” are often synonymous, which makes the outlawing of athletes at these parties extremely problematic, as our decision regarding members’ safety is portrayed as a race issue.

Coming from Vermont, I thought this school was going to be southern, and thus have a high population of black people in the social life of the school. According to the 2010 US Census Report Richmond was 50.6% black, and I imagined the campus would reflect that demographic. It is probably safe to assume that black athletes felt the same sense of disappointment upon arrival to campus. I was excited to diversify my friend group, which I definitely did, but not as much in the sense of racial diversity as I had hoped. Listening to this podcast and hearing about challenges faced in the 1970s and 80s is discouraging to me as almost nothing has been done to alleviate this problem and it is eating away at the athletics and social life on campus.

Students of Color Unwelcome on Campus: Thing of the Past?

[For the first blog post of the Summer 2018 A&S Research Fellowship, students were tasked with exploring the existing collection of the Race & Racism at UR Project at memory.richmond.edu and reflecting on the materials they encountered there.]

by Rena Xiao

Rena Xiao is a rising junior from New York City who has spent the majority of her life living abroad in Beijing, China. She is a Double Major in Geography and Global Studies with a Concentration in World Politics and Diplomacy, and a minor in WGSS.

When I walk by tour groups on campus, I will often hear tour guides tout the benefits of attending a small liberal arts college. I find most of these ring true: the small class sizes, more research opportunities, better relationship with professors, and a campus that doesn’t feel overwhelmed with the number of students. However, I find the tour guides statements of a “small, close knit community” are false. More often than not, I have found campus space here at the University of Richmond to be divided by different by racial and class lines.  For a population of only 3,036 people, there is a great deal of separation and segregation between student groups. Student life and campus culture at this school cater mostly to students of the dominant group: white students within Greek life. They have the greatest mobility to move through social spaces and have their identity reflected in the culture, practices, and behavior of this school.

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