Levine Museum

Photo by Elayna Daniels ’21

By: Lizzie Kane ’22 

“Gather with your Orientation group and load the buses for a party at the Levine Museum, and an opportunity to learn about the past, present and future of the Charlotte region,” reads the New Student Orientation Schedule. While this description states that the trip would include a “party,” I was expecting more of a chance to connect the information I’d learned in the required reading book, Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the American Struggle Over Educational Equality, to what the exhibits had to offer in the museum.

The goals the school was trying to accomplish were too much for one night. There was the social aspect to the evening and then the educational one. While I enjoy a good dance party, I did not think that this setting was appropriate for one. The museum visit should have been a night for learning and discussing alongside classmates. If the college wanted us to learn about the history of race relations in Charlotte, they could have just left the party to the one the next night at the Union.

Other students have been discussing their thoughts on the event. “It wasn’t too hard for people to forget about the explicit police brutality exhibits that they saw just moments before they made way to the dance floor,” Geo Echebiri ’22 said. “Unfortunately, the museum’s cries for social awareness fell on deaf ears because of the ironic positioning of the dance party.”

Orientation Team Member Stevie Jefferis ’19 shared similar feedback. “The trip to the Levine Museum was well-intended, but the event turned out to be very disjointed,” Jefferis said. “I think many incoming students enjoyed the event, but not necessarily for the museum itself.”

One of the exhibits in the museum includes a “community-created” piece on police brutality, specifically shootings, throughout Charlotte and the country. Another, “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers,” is an extensive exhibit on a post-Civil War history of the South.

I wanted to take in the important content at the museum, but I also felt the need to get to know my new classmates, the majority of which were at the party. Davidson had provided the DJ who proceeded to play explicit music throughout the night. There were songs that included racial slurs and misogynistic language, which I do not think fit the particular setting.

The trip left me with questions on my mind. How does this make Davidson look to its new class of students? Does the school know as much about diversity and inclusion as I thought it did? Did some students feel disrespected?

The Davidson College Statement of Purpose reads, “As a college that welcomes students, faculty, and staff from a variety of nationalities, ethnic groups, and traditions, Davidson values diversity, recognizing the dignity and worth of every person.” The trip to the museum shows the school’s dedication to their diversity values, but they didn’t present the event in the correct way.

Davidson has a complex history that is connected to white supremacy and slavery. The Chambers Building is named after Maxwell Chambers, a man who owned slaves. While the school is inextricably tied to similar history displayed in the Levine Museum, the staff here should know the importance of helping their new students learn about the intense history. After all, I hope that the majority of us will be spending the next four years here and care enough to learn about our new home.

While the administration knows they made a mistake, they are hesitant to fully admit it. An email sent out by Dean Leslie Grinage on August 27th stated the following: “Some of you have already told us that you didn’t have enough time in the Levine Museum and/or were too distracted by other activities to take in the exhibits. We’d like to give those of you who are interested the opportunity to go back, at no cost to you, on Saturday, September 8…Space is limited to 50 people….”

It is nice that the college is offering to take a small amount of students back to the museum, but I wish the administration would just own up to their error. It was wrong to hire a DJ who blasted explicit music at a museum with serious and valuable content. It was an honest misjudgment, and the school should admit it. While I am frustrated with how the school handled the orientation trip to the Levine Museum, I hope that the administration will learn from their mistake and do better in educating their new students next year. Lizzie Kane ’22 is an undeclared student from Baltimore, Maryland. Contact her at likane@davidson.edu

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