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Minorities at Loyola Face Challenges

College. Advertised in such a way that makes you want to go there. “Diversity,” “learning,” and “growing” are some of the words that colleges slap on their brochures to make them seem more appealing to high school seniors. College is supposed to be about finding yourself and being in a diverse environment right?

Loyola University Chicago portrays itself to a diverse institution. All over their brochures they talk about what a “diverse” learning environment Loyola is. One of their core values is to state, “We value and respect a diversity of backgrounds and lifestyles, ideas and beliefs.”

Not to say that Loyola isn’t trying to be diverse, but from what they are advertising, you’d think Loyola is a melting pot of all cultures, colors, ethnicities and backgrounds. But some minority students say it doesn’t always seem to be that way.

There are many student groups that try to cater to the needs of the minorities represented on campus. Some are more successful than others. For some students, the diversity, or lack there of, isn’t a problem. For others, there is something very uncomfortable about being at an intuition where you sometimes feel judged by the color of your skin.

There are three girls who I personally know that have dealt with feeling different because of the color of their skin. Lauren, Marie and Jaime are all in their third year at Loyola, and they have a lot to say about their experiences here. They asked not to be named by their real first names because they hold offices in organizations that cater to student diversity and some of their scholarships depend on their work and services in the diversity office.

“It’s hard because sometimes the other girls in my class look at me crazy because I have on nice things and I guess they do not think that I am supposed to know what these things are, let alone have them because I’m black,” Marie said.

Jaime went to high school in Naperville, Ill. and a lot of her friends decided to attend college in Chicago at schools such as DePaul and Columbia, so she didn’t think that it would be hard to make friends at Loyola.

“I came from a diverse school back at home, where there were blacks, whites, Hispanics, and I was friends with everyone,” Jaime said. “I could relate to anyone and I thought it would be easy to make friends here, but I realized it was a lot different than high school.”

The transition to college is hard enough to deal with on it’s own and making new friends is always a nerve-wracking process. When you get to college, you are essentially starting your life over: new place, new people new experiences. None of the girls imagined that it would as difficult as it was though, just based on the color of their skin.

They wondered if they were the only ones who felt different  — who felt out of place because of the color of their skin. They said they didn’t quite understand why they felt the way they did but it was making them uncomfortable, so they sought comfort through an on-campus group, the Black Cultural Center, or BCC.  Founded by black students, BCC caters to the problems that these students face on campus. It’s also a place where they can meet other black students, or students of any color.

The ladies found out about the BCC through the student organization fair that the school hosts at the beginning of each semester. Student organizations like BCC and the Office of Diversity Affairs are trying to increase minority enrollment and recruitment at Loyola by going out to urban schools in Chicago and giving students information about the school.

The BCC became a part of these young women’s lives and helped them cope with these uncomfortable feelings.

“I’m glad I joined the BCC, I learned a lot about Loyola from being in it and how to help Loyola,” Lauren said.

Loyola is 61 percent white, according to cappex.com, and 32 percent of their students are students of color, which includes blacks, Hispanics and Asian students, according to the Loyola website. Six percent of that number is black. In a school of about 10,000 undergraduate students, that number can be somewhat overwhelming. It definitely can be hard to relate to people of different backgrounds, but that’s what college is all about, right? Learning about people from all over and growing and maturing as a person. But it can be difficult to be open-minded when others around you are closed-minded.

Jaime says she felt like the odd ball in the majority of her classes.

“I never felt so different in my life,” she said. “The stares I would get for speaking up in class were awkward. Whenever race is discussed in class, some of the students will look at me. It’s really uncomfortable.”

These uncomfortable feelings have not gone away either. In fact, the students I interviewed said that as the years went by at Loyola, they got more and more annoyed and frustrated with the problem.

Marie shared a story about one of her friends, who is white, who was convinced that most black people put themselves in predicaments where they are not able to advance and do better in life — which of course is not the case.

“It seems like the more time I spend here the less tolerance I have for some of the ignorance that I face here on campus,” Marie said. “Some of my classmates, roommates, and even friends say some ignorant things about being black, or being less fortunate and it’s frustrating because no matter how hard they try to understand, they just don’t.”

Needless to say, Marie is ready to graduate and attend a graduate school with a more diverse student body.

Going to a predominately white institution is hard for someone of any race, because it is not as easy to relate to everyone, much like it would be hard for someone who is white to go to an all-black school. College is hard enough to deal with, with the amount of work and the stress of staying on top of your responsibilities and, of course, everyone wants to be able to share their stresses with people who can relate, but it’s hard to do that when people judge you because of your race.

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.