The Emphasis on the Coordinate College System

by Meghna Melkote

Meghna Melkote is a rising sophomore from Scranton, Pennsylvania majoring in Political Science and Philosophy and minoring in Music. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project as a member of Team Archive. She is involved with the Mock Trial and Debate teams, performs in chamber music ensembles, is a member of the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity, and is a content curator for public history platform bunkhistory.org

One of the first things a student at the University of Richmond hears during orientation week is in which college they are placed. Students are selected into either Richmond College (historically a men’s college) and Westhampton College (historically a women’s college but, in the modern age, moving away from that label and moving towards “the support of underrepresented genders”, as it explains on its website. This includes women, transgender individuals, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming individuals). The University of Richmond operates under a coordinate college system, which historically has played a significant role both in academics, residence life, and social life. While both Westhampton College and Richmond College have long, separate (although intertwined) histories, the legacy of the gender-separated campus stays in place even in recent years. It wasn’t until 2002, in fact, that students crossed the lake that used to separate men and women and were no longer separated by gender. In Fall 2017, freshman dorms became co-ed. And currently, Richmond College and Westhampton College operate different student governments, honor councils, and student conduct councils with different rules and procedures. Additionally, a large number of orientation events are still separated by college, with Richmond College and Westhampton College attending lectures at different times, and participating in college-specific activities. As a first-year student especially during the first week of college, I felt the legacy and the weight of the coordinate college system significantly impacted my college experience (I’m hard-pressed to discern whether for better or worse, but the gender-segregated orientation definitely impacted how I interact with first-year men).

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What’s in a Namesake: Admittance to and Omission from Public Memory

by Cole Richard

Cole Richard is a junior from Orlando, Florida double majoring in English and Italian Studies and minoring in Linguistics. This is his first summer working on the Race & Racism project. He is also a resident assistant, DJ at the campus radio station, and student worker at the music library.

Sometimes I reflect on how little I knew about the University of Richmond the day I decided it would be my first choice school. Towards the end of the summer before my senior year of high school I went on a college visit road trip up the East Coast with my dad. The schools selected were a combination of ones that I was already interested in (Bard, Pratt) and ones my dad thought would be a good match for me (Duke, Washington & Lee). The night before we left from our home in Florida, my dad added one more the itinerary: Richmond. Flash forward two days, and my dad and I were being taken on an admissions tour of this school I had never heard of, yet instantly wanted to attend. Our tour inundated us with those facts familiar to any prospective student: that Ryland Hall is the oldest building on campus, named after Richmond College’s first president; that E. Claiborne Robins’ 1969 donation to the University saved the school from bankruptcy (hence the statue and various buildings bearing his name). I took this all as it was presented to me and continued on, paying greater attention to the way the sun broke through the tree canopy between the business and law schools, and the circuitous motion of Westhampton Lake’s ducks and geese. For that year between my first visit to campus and freshman orientation, these were the images that defined the University of Richmond in my mind.

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There Is Nothing New Under the Sun

by Shira Greer

Shira Greer is a rising sophomore from Fairfax, Virginia majoring in Political Science and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. This is her first summer working with the Race & Racism Project. On campus she is also a Richmond Scholar, an Oliver Hill Scholar, a Peer Advisor and Mentor, and a member of the Executive Council for a Multicultural Space at the University.

Before coming to the University of Richmond, I knew virtually nothing about its history. When applying to different schools, their histories were the furthest thing from my mind: I was only concerned with current academic and extracurricular offerings and of course, financing my education. Upon my arrival to campus, I was still clueless about UR’s history, but I soon came to learn more about it. I began hearing about the Race & Racism Project during my first semester and took a cursory look through the website and the student exhibits presented there.

However, it was not until I joined the project that I began to take a deeper look into the project, and therefore the school’s history. In examining the project website, I started with the subject lists. The “Black Power” subject heading was the first to catch my eye, as after attending UR for a year I couldn’t imagine the Black Power movement having much effect on UR’s campus. While my suspicion proved correct, I was surprised to find that Dick Gregory gave a lecture on campus in 1970, then again in 1973, despite alumni backlash after his first appearance. Learning about his unexpected appearances on campus reminded me how much I still don’t know about this university, yet a quote from Gregory’s lecture reminded me how little our social circumstances have changed. During his lecture, he told the students in attendance “You are going to be the group that is going to solve this country’s problems, or this country is going to fall,” a sentiment that is still repeated to my generation today. This similarity reminded me of the adage “there is nothing new under the sun,” which I found rang true throughout my dive into the Race & Racism website.

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Greek Life in Regards to Race and Racism

by Joy Lim

Joy Lim is a Sophomore from Dallas, Texas majoring in Rhetoric/Communication Studies + Sociology and minoring in Anthropology. She is involved in the Westhampton College Government Association (WCGA), Alpha Phi Omega (APO), Delta Gamma (DG), Korean American Student Association (KASA), YouthLife, and is a mentor in the Peer Advisors and Mentors program (PAM). This is her first year working with the Race & Racism Project but she is interested in continuing this work in the future. She hopes to explore social justice issues not just on the University of Richmond campus but around the world as she continues her studies.

Reading over the exhibit of Racism in UR Fraternities was incredibly intriguing to me, as someone who identifies as Korean American, lower class, and female. Before applying to the University of Richmond, I knew very little about campus culture and next to nothing about the social climate surrounding student life. Before setting foot on campus all I knew was that the 2019 edition of the Princeton Review ranked the University of Richmond as the 9th most segregated campus in the nation. I didn’t think much about this issue as I wasn’t quite sure what a “segregated” community would feel like. Growing up in Dallas, Texas, I was surrounded by a diverse community, and I had the capacity to experience my Korean culture through multiple different outlets. Moving to campus was a culture shock due to its lack of culturally expressive opportunities, a dominating white demographic, and an exclusive social atmosphere. However, I found that joining student government (Westhampton College Government Association, known as WCGA) as a first-year student was remarkably rewarding as I had the opportunity to listen to student concerns and witness changes happening on campus first hand.

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Where Is There Space for Me?

by Sabrina Garcia

Sabrina Garcia is a junior from, Waldwick, New Jersey double majoring in Leadership Studies and English and minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). This is her first year working on the Race & Racism Project, on Team Archive. Sabrina is in the WILL* Program, works as a writing consultant, and is training to be a PSMA. She hopes to dedicate her career to social justice and believes in the mission of Race & Racism wholeheartedly.

In making a decision on which university to attend, whether or not that school had inclusive policies or any initiatives to improve inclusion on campus for minority students was not something that I considered. I knew very little about the University of Richmond as an institution and simply chose this school because of its ranking and the amount of aid that was offered. Through my classes—I’m an English and Leadership double major and a Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies minor–I quickly became exposed to the history of racial inequalities that still effects the city of Richmond and to how the University of Richmond continues to perpetuate white supremacy ideology by not confronting its past.

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Still Shares the Same Feelings as Students of Color who Attended in 1981

by Jisu Song

Jisu Song is a sophomore from Richmond, Virginia not decided in major but minoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2019 and is currently serving in the Oral History Team. As a student, she is an executive member in WILL*, member of Sirens, and a peer advisors and mentors. She hopes to work for global audiences.

After I moved to the United States, I always looked for the space that I could express my pure self to the community. Moving to the United States, the very first feeling that I felt was about the necessity to fit into the predominantly white culture. I always lived in a predominantly white environment. I was privileged enough to live in a safe and studious environment, but I always found myself not fitting into the culture. I found myself not understanding people’s context, especially in the entertainment culture. For example, because I spend my childhood in Japan, I grew up watching Japanese animations, such as Ghibli, while many of my friends grew up with Disney Chanel, Nickelodeon, and more American TV shows. I found myself lost in the conversations and started to avoid conversations. Resulting from these practices led me to have two different personas.  I always thought that what I do at home and at school should be different because I present myself differently. I found myself losing my Asian identification in the public.

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Being Asian and American at the University of Richmond

by Jenifer Yi

Jenifer Yi is a sophomore from Santa Clarita, California majoring in Biochemistry with a concentration in Neuroscience and a minor in Healthcare Studies. She has been involved with the Race & Racism Project since 2018 and hopes to diversify the conversation and inclusion of all students of color at the University of Richmond. Through her contributions to the project, she wants to push for campus-wide racial awareness. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in medicine while continuing to advocate and raise awareness for healthcare access for minorities.

It took eighteen years before I stepped foot as far east as Richmond, Virginia – the farthest I’ve been out on the East Coast.  A little naïve but brimming with excitement for the unknown, I did not realize back then that I would struggle with my cultural identity and sense of belonging for the first time in my life. Growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada for fourteen years then moving to a decently-sized suburb forty minutes outside Los Angeles, California for my high school years, I never noticed or took mind to the fact that I grew up and associated primarily with other Asian Americans. I befriended anyone who wanted to befriend me, but I never felt the oppressive pressure to prove to my non-Asian peers that I too, was born in the United States, and identified as an American despite having parents that immigrated from South Korea.

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Passive No Longer: Grappling With the University of Richmond’s History of Activism and Complacency

by Nathan Burns

Nathan Burns is a junior from Newtown, Pennsylvania double-majoring in French and Leadership Studies and minoring in English. This summer of 2019 marks Nathan’s first time working with the Race & Racism Project. On campus, Nathan is also a writing consultant and a member of the dining services student advisory committee.

When I was applying to college, my knowledge of the University of Richmond was limited to the selfishly narrow perspective of how the university would impact my immediate future. However, as an unintended consequence of this streamlined attention to what would be best for myself, I partially overlooked the university and the city of Richmond’s defining historical characteristics. For example, I was aware during my application process that Richmond was once the capital of the confederacy, and far more Southern than anywhere I had lived for an extended period of time. However, this fact, along with any nervousness I had surrounding it, often went unvoiced during my application process. Additionally, when drafting my application to the University of Richmond, I knew close to nothing about the university’s history, let alone its complete history. I knew only the aforementioned characteristics that I believed could potentially undermine my overall well-being during my four years on campus. Little did I realize that by pivoting away from how I viewed the university as only impacting my future, I would eventually become increasingly concerned with how the university’s past impacted—and still impacts—all of its students, faculty and staff.

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These stories tell me who I am

by Cory Schutter

Cory Schutter is a Class of 2019 graduate from Midlothian, Virginia. He double majored in Rhetoric and Communication Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS). He was a Bonner Scholar, a Center for Civic Engagement Ambassador, and a Student Coordinator at UR Downtown. He began his involvement with the Race & Racism Project in the summer of 2017, as an A&S Summer Fellow, then joined the team again via Digital Memory & the Archive, a course offered in Fall 2017. The post below is the written text of Cory’s speech at the 2018-2019 Lavender Graduation, sponsored by the Office of Alumni and Career Services, LGBTQ Spiders Alumni Group, and the Office of Common Ground. The event took place on April 11, 2019. 

2019 Lavender Graduation, with Cory Schutter in the center.

On a crisp October day 42 years ago, Anita Bryant came to the Robins Center to perform a “concert of sacred music.” The program was sponsored by the Richmond Area Baptist Associations, and did not claim a connection to any campus ministries. In protest, Richmond Citizens for Gay and Lesbian Rights organized a corresponding rally at Monroe Park, to educate and support L and G Richmonders. And a UR alum challenged her, wearing a “gay and proud” tshirt.

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This Week in the Archive: That’s What You Think

by Destiny Riley

Destiny Riley is a Class of 2019 graduate from Maumelle, Arkansas, majoring in Rhetoric & Communication Studies and double minoring in Sociology and American Studies. Destiny first contributed to the Race & Racism at UR Project during an independent study course in the Spring of 2017, and then joined the team again via Digital Memory & the Archive, a course offered in Fall 2017. This post was written as part of a Spring 2019 independent study with the Race & Racism Project.

From the late 1980s to the late 2000s, the Collegian published a feature series titled “That’s What You Think.” The series, consisting of the responses from five people to a posed question also included a picture of each respondent most of the time. The respondents ranged from students to professors. While many of the questions prompted lighthearted responses, such as ones discussing Vanilla Ice, others prompted much more complex, and often problematic, responses. These features provided insight into people’s thinking throughout various years and decades. Not only did the features shed light on the University community’s critiques of the University, but also illuminated people’s problematic views on topics such as homosexuality and gender stereotypes. One of the articles that caught my attention in this series posed the following question: What do you think about race relations at UR?

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