In 1935, Turner Jones ‘39, was an earlyAfrican-American to attend Ripon College. Jones, from Louisville, Kentucky, attended Ripon to receive a northerner education. After a at Ripon Jones transferred out because he wished to attend a place where he “wasn’t the odd man out.”
“In 2016, I do think being the ‘odd man out’ is still an issue,” says Kyonna Withers, director of multicultural affairs.
Withers explains, “Students who transfer out either do it for financial reasons, or because they have gotten looks for talking on the phone with their mother in another language, or because they were singled out by their peers during a discussion in class because of their race or ethnicity.”
Withers says Ripon College breaks down demographically as such: 750 total students – 43 Hispanic, 19 African-American, six Asian, three Indian, 12 of two or more races, and 32 international students. Not counting the international students Ripon College is 9 percent non-white. Withers adds that when diversity is below 10 percent, it is cause for improvement.
Jose Zavala ‘18 says the Center for Diversity and Inclusion is one of the few places that feels safe and comfortable to him.
“You don’t have to be concerned if you speak another language. You are free to speak what you want to without being judged,” Zavala says.
Withers is concerned that racism still exists, both in the United States and on Ripon’s campus. She points out a Yik Yak post that advocated sending all African-Americans back to Africa.
“It blows my mind that people are still thinking this way,” says Withers.
Students speaking Spanish in the Commons are stared at. Multicultural students are followed around Pick n’ Save. Withers is concerned that we are not appreciating the different flavors and cultures that comes here.
“We can’t change every single person, but we can make them see that everyone is equal and deserves the right to a great education,” adds Withers.
Ermias Woldu ‘19 adds that it is about finding those people who accept you.
“I pledged Theta Chi, and I feel accepted there,” says Woldu.
Currently, Withers is working with Admission to find ways to reach prospective students of color, concluding, “The college is making strides, but we are only starting now.”