Identity Centers on College Campus
Identity centers are places set up within the university premises to help students from minority groups to cope up with the campus environment challenges. Historically, these institutions of higher education were focused on following the norm rather than equality of students on the campuses as higher education was a prerogative of the elite white men in the United States. It is thus necessary to look into the matter of whether such facilities are needed in the present day academic environment and study the question of their effectiveness in more detail.
As the students from humble backgrounds started to be admitted, there was a need to level the playing ground, with identity centers being regarded as the best solution (Braxton & McClendon, 2011). That was because even after they were accepted, they were subjected to bullying, and discrimination a culture that these institutions upheld. With time, various social identities have gained access to these systems and make a significant proportion of the school population. Since the campus fraternity tends to uphold the values that favor the majority, gays, lesbians, LGBT, and women face harassment and at times feel isolated. The identity centers have helped them immensely to be recognized and able of fitting in the campus society comfortably.
The first reason why identity centers are of great importance to our institutions of higher learning is the campus climate. The environment has never accommodated everyone. There are always groups of individuals who are left out in the cold. Four aspects dictate the campus climate the history of the institution to discriminate or offer equality, behavioral issue, structural variations, and psychological diversity (Drake, 2011). No single campus and if any, a few, can be able to assert that students belonging to different racial, ethnic, gender, religion and sexual orientation have existed harmoniously since the inception of the institution.
There is always a feeling of alienation the minority group experience while studying at campuses. Some policies passed can be oblivious that a minority group will experience it backlash in a more severe manner. For example, if an institution declares to make the commencement of lectures earlier than the previous times, the group of physically disabled will be more affected than those without the disability. The identity centers ensure such biased laws are revisited to make them friendly to everyone on an equal ground.
Microaggression is a term that was coined to describe the sense of being out-of-place that people feel when they are the minority group (Patton, 2012). The fields of engineering, science, and technology have been characterized to be male-dominated professions and more specifically by the white male gender. If a woman of color stumbles upon this field, she is susceptible to microaggressions. To avoid this feeling, the few women in this area ought to form a group that identifies with their commonality. The team helps them to share the intricacies of their gender in a male-dominated field and also acts as a therapy. The knowledge that other women are in the same area of the profession and also experience similar problems assures them and helps to keep thoughts of losing hope at bay.
Identity centers have been known to represent a physical refuge for students where they can express themselves confidently without worrying about offending another group. The tension that surrounds the race, gender, and religious affiliations are high and therefore when these groups interact, they always steer clear of such topics (Pryor & Tran, 2010). The centers offer a platform where one can criticize another team without the fear that the conversation can ensue into a broken relationship or a fight.
Identity Center Tasks
Many universities have identity centers that offer academic programs that are conducted by experts in areas that the group finds to be a common ground (Renn, 2012). The South Dakota State University and Portland State University provide educational programs to multicultural centers. The education is not a form of discrimination against people from a different group because the academic support is in helping the marginalized group to overcome social problems that are specific to their category. Some identity enters have libraries and media collections that can be accessed by any member of the team. Some of these facilities have evolved and widened their scope of knowledge by incorporating studies on women, sexual minorities, and ethnic groups in a bid to understand them and live harmoniously together.
The identity centers help the students to hone their leadership abilities and also to gain confidence that will be later transferred to the environment of the camp. The commonalities among the group members stir up conversations, and in the long run, the students improve their communication skills (Pryor & Tran, 2010). While in the group, they confidently communicate and can get a better view of their problems. Backed up by the professional support they might receive, their skills to critically analyze a situation are sharpened.
These groups are usually comprised of an assortment of members in different age categories. The senior students have more experience with the social perception of the campus society towards their group, and as a result, they can give an insight and direction to the junior students (Renn, 2012). When the young students find role models, the team gets more significance to them apart from being a center where marginalized students run for support. This strength-based approach of the identity centers is used to motivate the students through the success stories from their seniors to excel in various fields on the campus.
Staff and Disciplines
The workers from the student affairs office do not blend with that of the faculty of departments, and at times, they even seem to compete with each other. The flexibility of the identity centers to incorporate both curricular and co-curricular activities serves in bridging the gap between the faculties and the student affairs offices in a campus fraternity (Braxton & McClendon, 2011). The departments that deal with the disciplines that are connected with the study of race, ethnicity, and gender, persist on the continuation of identity centers. Such centers are used in the research and collection of data on the current trends experienced in these groups. The connection is also crucial to the faculties because they have an interest in allocating resources that are solely meant for a particular minority group.
Currency of the Identity Centers
The acceptance of these groups varies among institutions, and the number of such centers also differs. Some of the LGBT organizations (advocates for transgender equality) have reported to allocate a low level of commitment from the institutions in which they operate. Also, the administrations of some campuses are reluctant to respond when cases of sexual assault happen. Considering how rape cases are rampant among the students, this is a clear indication that identity centers are not taken as seriously as they ought to be.
The inability to spread awareness is attributed to the nature of the society to accept change, especially one that favors a minority. When such a move is proposed, the group of people that are enjoying the privilege tends to feel threatened and as a result, resists the cultural modification. In many universities, the pioneers of the change had to endure harsh situations and fight relentlessly to establish an identity center (Tatum, 1997). The traditions of a campus are held in very high esteem by the administrators that any proposal for the change is dealt with harshly.
However, many institutions are supporting the minority groups more than they used to in the past. The presence of the identity centers in an organization is used in research as one of the parameters to measure the campus climate. The amount of support regarding space, staff, and budgets that are allocated to these groups are also considered. For the administration to appear open to diversity, identity centers have been the core spot.
The identity centers have become deep-seated in the campus operations that these groups cannot be ignored. Any institution that can decide to close an identity center can be met with a rejection that can even ruin its relationship with other organizations. The centers have enabled their members to be more vocal to any injustice that has the potential to demean or infringe their rights. Closing a center can be interpreted as hostility on the part of the institution (Drake, 2011). Michigan State University and a few other campuses have avoided any termination of a minority group and resorted to renaming or reorganizing the team ostensibly for political reasons.
Identity centers have faced criticism that hampers the rapid development of their groups and activities. There is a school of thought that asserts that it leads to segregation on campus and hinders the student from interacting with each other (Tatum, 1997). What this school of thought fails to take into consideration are the experiences the minority group endures. Before the teams were formed, they faced discrimination, and few people understood them. The school of thought, therefore, places the interest of the majority first at the expense of the minority. The segregation issue cannot be considered to be an automatic by-product of the groups because some identity centers place their focus on educating their members about other groups such as females and numerous other vulnerable p. The enlightenment on these groups ensures understanding among students, and that leads to a peaceful coexistence (Pryor & Tran, 2010).
The school of thought also stresses that it is the majority students that are on the defensive and are bearing the brunt. It assumes that the minority are depriving the majority the chance to engage in different cultures. The ideology turns a blind eye on the probability that the majority students are the ones who lack interest or they stay oblivious to other cultures around them. They also feel uncomfortable when they are around people who are different from them. In addition to that, identity centers, though they are formed to take care of a specific group, they are open to any person. That leaves the majority students to take part in the interaction process by attending their meeting and try to understand their views rather than chastise them.
Since its inception in the identity, centers have helped the level the playing ground for the minorities. It has churned out better students and leaders could not have been recognized if the centers were not there. At first, many campuses objected the idea of having those centers, but it took an incessant demand to open up the group by the pioneers of these groups. Now, the significance of the team is highly regarded when measuring the climate of the campus. Their activities are not limited to only fighting the injustice in the society, but they play a critical role in educating their members and also liaising with the faculties on campuses. They provide reasonable grounds for studying a specific minority group.
The issue of identity centers is still one of the controversial on campuses. Although there are evident causes for their creation and a considerable positive effect from their activity, some people believe the centers should be abolished because they segregate students based on their groups. However, the same ideologists regard the minority group as the ones who are wrong without giving a thought of why the very group was formed in the first place.