Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Saturday, May 26, 2012 11:05
Although we as students always hear the Davidson College Statement of Purpose one-liner “The primary purpose of Davidson College is to assist students in developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service,” we rarely ever hear any other line of the 40-lined document. We don’t hear anyone quote that Davidson “dedicates itself to the quest for truth and encourages teachers and students to explore the whole of reality,” or that Davidson “emphasizes those studies, disciplines, and activities that are mentally, spiritually, and physically liberating.” And I personally take offense.
Now that I’ve been at Davidson for a little over three years, I have seen the good, the bad, and the truly ugly of this place. I’ve seen the cattiness and selfishness of professors, the complete aloofness of students, and the complete disregard for staff, unless of course they are servicing the aloof students and selfish professors. Don’t get me wrong, there are people here who constantly challenge the complacency (with all-encompassing whiteness), yet are hardly ever recognized for the great work they do. People like Dr. Fairley, Dr. Flanagan, Dr. Kelly, Ashley Sherrill, and Dr. Reimer who challenge students to really think critically about the ways that they understand the world and therefore, affirm Davidson’s purpose. Individuals like these are consistently disregarded and ignored because some white man wrote an “interesting” article about Europe.
The curriculum of this place is as dead and old as some of the professors here. It isn’t challenging, it doesn’t ask students to think critically, and it definitely isn’t reflective of “exploring the whole of reality” nor “those studies, disciplines, and activities that are liberating.” With the exception of those individuals previously mentioned, there is hardly anyone here who questions their privilege or the racist (and yes I mean, RACIST) things that they say. Yes, we have discussions on gay marriage and “liberal” studies, but we don’t have discussions on how race or class impacts any of those things. Yes, we have “safe” discussions on race and gender, so as not to ruffle the feathers of the “guilt-stricken” white people, the “angry and over-emotional” people of color, or God-forbid the trustees and alumni. WHY does Davidson not have any arts classes that are reflective of non- European thoughts, ideas, or concerns (with the exception of studies on Asia-related topics on occasion)? HOW can this be a liberal arts education when so many things are left out? HOW can we be training leaders for the “whole of reality,” when Davidson rarely acknowledges the reality of its racist, sexist, and generally oppressive practices? Yes, Davidson was founded for rich southern white men, but that demographic changed a long time ago. HOW LONG will it take to actually make change? HOW LONG will Project ’87 lay forgotten and unheeded? HOW LONG will Davidson refuse to acknowledge and change its ways?
My prayer for this institution is that by 2015, when all these dear first-year students are looking back over their 4 years here, another student like me will not be able to write a letter like this. James Scott (1990) says, “once the lack of faith in the enterprise left the hidden transcript and became a public fact, it posed a threat to its legitimacy that offstage heresy alone could never pose.” Therefore, count this as my lack of faith in the enterprise of Davidson, posing a threat to its falsified legitimacy. We all have these conversations in private, but no more. This time let the conversation be heard by all and “constitute a throwing down of the gauntlet, a symbolic declaration of war” (Scott, 1990: 203).
Aria Halliday ’12 is an Africana Studies major from Jessup, MD. Contact her at email@example.com.