White and Non-White Freshmen to Spend Time Together!

In the early 90s we noticed that Brown and Yale were conducting separate freshman orientations for non-white students. Since then this casual segregation of new students has spread widely and has come to be seen as normal. Typically minority students arrive a week early and are instructed on how to cope with a historically white institution before the whites appear. The theory seems to be that arriving minority students need special protection and a thorough race-based analysis of themselves and American culture before facing Caucasian classmates. By the time the whites show up, minority students have bonded with one another, thus reinforcing for yet another college class the identity politics and separatism so dominant on the campuses today.
Over the years, separate orientations have gradually come to be seen as analogous to separate water fountains. So the new trend is to blur the enforced segregation a bit. Mount Holyoke has just announced a new plan: a special orientation for whites. This fall whites and non-whites will have parallel orientation programs, meeting separately and “exploring their own racial identity and thinking about power and privilege,” said Elizabeth Braun, dean of student at Mount Holyoke, then coming together as an “inclusive” group discussing (white) power and privilege. Braun said the college will look for white freshmen “with an interest in anti-racism,” as if that were a hard -to-find hobby on an elite campus today. According to Inside Higher Ed, “she said she viewed this as a valuable alternative to eliminating special orientations for minority students.” This means that even on a relentlessly PC campus like Mount Holyoke, pressure is rising against segregating freshmen along racial lines. That’s a good sign. A better sign would be a move away from freshman race-and-gender indoctrination and just have a normal orientation.

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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