For years, Elon University has worked toward expanding the diversity of the undergraduate student population. On-campus initiatives such as the CREDE or El Centro have all popped up in recent years as an attempt to draw more racially and socioeconomically diverse students into the student body. Our population views this as positive, because of its increase in our overall numbers — within two years our number of racially diverse students jumped from just 17 percent to a whopping 19 percent. But there is still an absence of students of color in many of Elon’s spaces: one in particular being the Center for Writing Excellence.
In a perfect world, 19 percent of the consultants employed in the writing center would be students of color, which would accurately reflect Elon’s current student body. With approximately 40 consultants, this would mean a little under 8 students would consider themselves of color. While this number is not a large one, it would be a far better statistic than the 4 currently employed by the Writing Center. With just more than 7 percent of the Writing Center consultant population identifying with a minority status, this is even lower than Elon’s overall minority student population (which is already staggeringly low). This statistic begs the question: where are all the consultants of color?
For many students, there is a lack of access to the "Writing Center Workshop" class. Some students may not even know about this course, which is the class that provides a gateway into employment at the writing center. For others, it’s the perception of having to be an English major to work in the writing center. While it may seem that the overwhelming majority of consultants are English majors, there are quite a few accounting, biology and psychology majors sprinkled in with us — all of whom have taken "Writing Center Workshop." While some may not believe it, it is entirely possible for a non-English major to work in the Writing Center.
For the students of color matriculated at Elon: It is not your responsibility to increase diversity at Elon. It’s the responsibility of Elon to become more accessible to our less represented students — students of color, low-income students or first generation students. While these identities should not be a token in a university setting, it is too often seen that they are. Appealing programs, in-house scholarships and a genuine interest in having a more colorful campus (not just for publicity) are all things that Elon must work on in the next strategic plan. But it is up to students of color to increase their presence as consultants in the writing center. The Writing Center simply advertises revising services to their students — there is no cost or obstacles to applying like most universities.
You might not see a point to your role in the writing center — simply revising and helping students complete projects — but there is. No pressure, but students are watching. Without ample representation in a space as crucial to learning as the writing center, students feel disregarded, uncomfortable and ultimately left out. In a Predominantly White Institution (PWI) such as Elon, the last thing a student of color should feel is left out. Unfortunately, it is all too often that this is the first thing they feel when they step on campus.
By listening to student experiences, it is clear the lack of representation in the center has an effect not only on the students confidence as a writer, but also the power dynamic of the center as well. Standard academic English in modern times has been overtaken by white rhetoric, and anything — or anyone — else displays what is thought to be subpar rhetoric. Becoming aware of this dynamic as early as possible helps combat (even if only slightly) the everyday struggles a minority student will face in proving that the English language is not the property of white people. From being accused of plagiarism, to erasure of one’s native culture and language through writing, students being praised and proven responsible for their own writing — black, white or purple — is a tactic that a typical human being can use to support another.
By Ashley Billie.