Graduate Student

College of Health and Human Sciences

Black

“Prior to becoming a student at Purdue, I hadn’t given much thought about my skin color. I have never in my life felt more black than I have here at Purdue. I have received multiple messages making me feel as if I am an unwelcomed and unimportant member of the university. Over the past year and a half these have been my experiences:

1. Just a few weeks ago, I was told I was not the “right fit” for a study abroad program. When I asked what that meant and what was the actual criteria for candidates, I was told my participation would just be “problematic.”

2. Before this conversation the program was opened to all students, after I expressed interest, I was told the program would probably be CHANGED to only include undergraduate students.

3. After a class discussion about gun violence in Chicago, a professor randomly asks me “You’re dad is from Chicago right?”

4. In another instance, a professor was trying to ask me if I was building relationships on campus by asking if I had “found my homegirl yet?”

5. I have been called offensive, too-proactive, combative, and problematic, all coded language for the academy’s definition of the angry black women. New facility members have even been instructed not to work with me.

6. Even though I am the only black graduate student in my department, I have to reintroduce myself ever time I change my hair style.

7. When I have gone to certain University administrators to discuss my experiences, the focus has been on what I can do such as transferring into a different program or university. There has been no focus on professor accountability and misconduct.

I was hand-picked and recruited to come this university because of my academic record and scholarly potential. At one point I considered attending this university as an “opportunity of a lifetime.” I do not feel the same anyway and I certainly would not recommend another minority student attend Purdue. Unless a professor overtly uses a derogatory slur, it is hard to prove racism and discrimination. We work with world class researchers who are aware of this very fact, so they use intentional, subtle micro aggressions to create hostile spaces and to let minority students know how they feel about us. All of these actions are protected and open to interpretation and again hard to prove. The fact however that many students are describing similar mistreatment shows that these acts are not the figments from the imaginations of several hundred students, but instead there is a real bonafide problem here at the university. The personal cost for pursuing an education is not the same for all students. I have sacrificed a lot and come too far, to deal with my educators as barriers to my success. I hope you read these stories, every word. I hope you read these stories and think about the people, the families, the emotions, and the tears behind these words and feel compelled to do what is right. They say the work we do moves the world forward, therefore in true Boilermaker fashion I see no reason why you cannot meet our demands and truly make Purdue a leader of innovation, diversity, and intolerance.”

-TL Harris

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