Why I Quit Student Ambassadors – Discrimination at JMU

1 Feb

In the spring semester of 2013, I was inducted into one of the most highly competitive organizations on JMU’s campus. The JMU Student Ambassador’s pride themselves on being some of the friendliest college tour guides in the country, convincing prospective high school students from all over the North East to attend the home of the Duke Dog. I knew it would be difficult to get in, but I got through the interview process and couldn’t be happier to take part in what was advertised to me as the experience of a lifetime. Many, many others were not accepted but what they didn’t know was that if they were an applicant of color, their chances of getting in were slim to none.

ambassadors 2

JMU student ambassadors in front of Wilson Hall
From: JMU Student Ambassadors Facebook


There are currently one hundred and twenty-two student ambassadors, the group just accepted a brand new class of forty-one. However there are fewer than fifteen students of color in the entire organization and there have only been about four black Ambassadors in the last four years! I was one of two in my class.

I have been a student at JMU for almost four years now, so being the only person of color in a room full of white people is nothing new. I tried to fit in by ignoring the overwhelming whiteness in the group at first, but it soon became more and more apparent that I was not so much a welcome member of the organization as I was a lucky token. During our tour training, an executive member suggested we tell racist jokes on our tours about how the amount of nachos you can get at PC Dukes could feed all of Mexico. They made it clear that if we were uncomfortable talking about diversity (read – race), we could simply ask the staff at the Center for Multicultural Student Services (CMSS) to do it for us. And the icing on the cake was in finding out that we often borrowed black and brown students from CMSS who are part of Students for Minority Outreach in order to make our tour guides appear more representative of the student body.

I was quick to complain about these issues to the president, advisor and Admissions staff. All of them acknowledged that the group had a serious problem when it came to recruiting students of color and reaching out to other marginalized student groups. They claimed that they were “dedicated to diversity” and were happy to have me on board. I quit the following semester after realizing that when they said they were happy to have me on board, what they meant was that they were happy to have me to do everything for them.

Student Ambassador's New Members From Student Ambassador's Facebook

Student Ambassador’s New Members
From Student Ambassador’s Facebook


Two days ago, I saw the newest group of students chosen and was sickened to see that Student Ambassadors had once again selected very few students of color. Twenty-percent of students at JMU are non-white. This means that in order to be representative at least twenty-four Student Ambassadors should be people of color.

We have to stop pretending that what is happening in a major student organization that acts as the face of our University is okay. Student Ambassadors is intimately connected to our Admissions and Alumni offices. It is not okay that students of color and international students cannot access this organization in the same way that white students can.

Some have claimed that students of color are unqualified or that they are not applying. However there are many qualified students on this campus who have been turned away from Ambassadors and many who do not apply because they see that Student Ambassadors is not a space for them. It is time we demand a fair application process that does not discriminate against students of color. Students of color are not asking to be selected because they are black, Latino, Asian or Native, but because they are passionate, qualified and ready to represent a University that they love.

What do you think about this problem? What can we do to solve diversity issues on our campus?

132 Responses to “Why I Quit Student Ambassadors – Discrimination at JMU”

  1. paulmabrey 02/02/2014 at 7:28 am #

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. Whiteness, privilege and access permeate every aspect of our lives. A very thought provoking piece. We have much to consider, reflect and do.

    • truequeerlatte 02/02/2014 at 10:27 am #

      Thanks for your feedback paulmabrey. I hope this piece will encourage students and the entire JMU community to get serious about making changes that matter.

      • changeforjmu 02/04/2014 at 2:30 pm #

        I can definitely say that I know exactly how you feel. As a student here at JMU the diversity is slim to none. Thank you for making me want to take action and make a change.

  2. SarahStar77 02/02/2014 at 11:22 am #

    Thank you for pointing this out!!! The picture you chose really shows how sometimes actions or rather images speak louder than words. Student Ambassadors is just a bunch of white people. This really upsets me. Have you thought about taking this issue to the press or bringing it up with Alger again? I personally think making this a public issue would really fix JMU’s diversity problem. It could definitely become a major PR crisis for JMU.

    • truequeerlatte 02/02/2014 at 1:25 pm #

      Thanks Sarah, the pictures do offer a rather clear example of the problem at hand. I am thinking about sharing with administration if they haven’t seen it yet. In the meantime, keep speaking up about this and other diversity issues you see on campus. This is happening everywhere! We need more voices like yours!

      • SarahStar77 02/02/2014 at 2:55 pm #

        Not a problem. Keep me posted on this issue and I definitely will be bringing this up with my friends and peers.

    • public opinion 02/02/2014 at 2:37 pm #

      Jmu as a whole has way bigger issues to deal with than to focus on the ethnic diversity of one student organization. While this is openning the dialogue to diversity as whole one shouldnt focus on race and in particular one race as being the victim. Look at the IGCG organizations and youll see the exact opposite taking place and not one white person in any of the cultural frats or sororities. Are you gonna call them out too?

      • imagineherstory 02/03/2014 at 8:40 pm #

        Yes, JMU has tons of issues to deal with but one of them is diversity. It’s important to open the dialogue about it because this is something that we should all care about as students who want the best for our university. Our blogger focused that on one race because that is the race that she identifies with and she is talking about her personal experience. With regards to your comment about ICGC, it’s not valid to argue that multicultural organizations are somehow guilty of reverse racism. The problem was that traditional Panhellenic and IFC organizations did not create a space for these students, thus forcing these students to create organizations of their own. The multicultural organizations did not come into being out of a desire for exclusivity; rather, they were responding to a systemic exclusion from participation in these other organizations.

        • Phi Slamma Jamma 02/04/2014 at 12:56 pm #

          Absolutely false with your point on ICGC. Lambda Phi Epsilon, back when it was ONE IG and seeking a charter literally had white, black, and Latino members in addition to Asian Americans.

          The leader of ONE IG purged every single one of the non-Asian American students . The irony of it all is that he was in Phi Sigma Pi and “a brother” to other racial groups. He still stayed in PSP while ONE IG became LPE. The motive was purely racial. He wanted to present an all-Asian American group to the national organization.

          Were traditional Panhellenic/IFC orgs discriminatory in the past? Absolutely some of them were. Some still are. Segregation, even self-segregation isn’t the solution however.

      • Enlightment 02/03/2014 at 11:23 pm #

        As a point of clarification, there are current members of ICGC who identify as white. In addition, there have been past members who identify as white who have been presidents of ICGC chapters.

      • JMU student1 02/04/2014 at 10:53 pm #

        Well my organization is a sorority under ICGC that goes out their way to welcome students of all colors. We love diversity and we make sure the JMU community knows that. But a lot of times whites don’t consider our orgs. Do some research before you make an uneducated comment.

  3. A Student Sick of Being Made to Feel Bad About "Racism" 02/02/2014 at 12:30 pm #

    2 black students in an entering class of about 41 at for Student Ambassadors means that black students made up 4.87% of that class. Black students make up about 3.82% of students at JMU so I unless you think we need to actually falsely represent the population, we are okay on at least that front. JMU is 80% Caucasian. Whether or not some of the other things you said are justified (I know that sometimes we don’t do the best job of being inclusive), an accurate representation of the student population in the Student ambassadors would mean that only 8 people in the 41 person class would be of non-white races.

    • truequeerlatte 02/02/2014 at 1:49 pm #

      Hey there, thanks for your comment. Considering the relative size of ambassadors after graduation, which last semester was about 80, there should be 16 students of color in the group after graduation in order to be representative. And while I am not suggesting that ambassadors become over-representative, i do not see the harm in it considering historical underrepresentation. You also make the point that there should be 8 students of color in their incoming class, yet there are not. Thus proving that JMU Ambassadors are not racially representative of campus as a whole. Lastly, no need to put the word racism in quotes, it’s a real thing – even if you don’t do it on purpose.

    • A Harrisonburg resident 02/02/2014 at 7:40 pm #

  4. S 02/02/2014 at 12:56 pm #

    “However there are many qualified students on this campus who have been turned away from Ambassadors and many who do not apply because they see that Student Ambassadors is not a space for them.”

    Did the author provide any statistics about how many minority students apply, how many are accepted, and how many are turned away? Much of the evidence that I’m seeing is anecdotal, unless I missed something.

    It’s also important to note that race is only one part of the diversity equation.

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 12:29 am #

      Thanks for your feedback! This is a personal story. I am honest about my experience and what I know to be true. The purpose of this was to start a dialogue and should not be regarded as a statistical essay in which I am required to provide readers with every fact and figure.

      And I do agree that race is not the only issue at play here. We have a lot of other identities to take into account, I simply focused on one that was most real for me and that I could best summarized in 700 words. I am also an LGBT woman, so I do not take any issue of diversity lightly.

  5. Jonathan Sanford 02/02/2014 at 1:37 pm #

    It seems that, as any student organization, the ambassadors are choosing a group of new inductees most similar to the image they wish JMU to be represented as. I believe that image is white, upper-middle class, educated, outgoing. However, JMU is not just that, there is a diversity of students from all backgrounds. This student organization needs to look beyond its own precious image and broaden into a diverse group of students from all backgrounds. I believe the image they should strive to represent should not be unity through like cultural backgrounds, but unity through the shared yearning of academic enrichment possessed by each student of James Madison regardless of where they come from.

    But, it’s not MY organization, it’s theirs. I don’t really know what goes into the selection process.

    • Learn your FAQs 02/02/2014 at 1:59 pm #

      Im sorry Jonathan, but you’re completely misinformed. the image that student ambassadors wants to represent is not “white, upper-middle class, educated, and outgoing”. They pride themselves on saying there is no “cookie-cutter ambassador”. The diversity actually represented in the organization is incredible and not solely based on skin color. We have numerous people that identify with the LGBT community and we have tons of people that have very diverse ethnic backgrounds represented in the organization. If the author of this article really wanted to make a change in the organization then they would have stayed involved and done it from the inside. I for one would have gladly supported her and her causes to help create a more diverse organization based on her qualifications.

      In regards to the application process, the people that the organization accepts is reflective of the people that apply. Everyone is offered to apply, we stand in public places (the commons) offering flyers for application interest and we send informational emails to EVERYONE on the JMU campus. If we were to solely base our application process based on skin color they would have complained they didn’t get in on merit.

      • Jonathan Sanford 02/02/2014 at 2:33 pm #

        I’m sorry that I’m misinformed. I told you how it SEEMS to me.This is an opinion of someone who has created an image based off of what I have experienced in the presence of student ambassadord. I’m glad that our student ambassadors take opinions of their student body so seriously. Instead of telling us what your image is, listen to those around you. Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t agree with how you see yourself.

        I’m sorry that you’ve misinformed me over my tenure at JMU. How about taking constructive criticism instead of shooting down an opinion that some in the student body have.

      • Dark Knight 02/02/2014 at 3:22 pm #

        Clearly they haven’t…If they felt that their image was this “No Cookie-Cutter ambassador” then more people would relate to the Ambassadors. While I was at James Madison, I could see the same sorts of problems happen on a daily basis. I being African American would find myself being the only one of color in classes to the point where it was “normal” or accepted rather. I would even sometimes joke with my friends and say things like “Oh look, im the only black guy on the quad” or when a couple of my other African American friends would show up in the same area at the same time we’d say that this is the population of black students at JMU. Sadly its a fact, not many african americans are at JMU. The Ambassadors don’t have the personnel who can reach out to these families on tours. Someone they can relate to. While I was on tour, my family was the only black family there. This is where the issue is…

        Now, on to your comment. 1) We weren’t discussing LGBT, that’s irrelevant. Im pretty sure the LGBT have a higher % at the school than the amount of African Americans enrolled. 2) If there were enough minorities within the Ambassadors, we’d notice via the picture. Clearly its not as diverse as you make it out to be, as a matter of fact I think you’re missing the point in entirety. Its not about doing it based on qualifications or those who apply. The problem starts with the amount of minorities at the school. I bet that maybe out of the hundreds “if that” applications you get maybe 5 are African American (and that is stretching it). Why would you want to do it based on that when the point of the Ambassadors is to show how diverse JMU is. That their child is a fit at this school regardless of how media, previous teachers, or society in whole may state.

      • JMU '08 04/22/2014 at 7:41 pm #

        False. I’m seriously sick of JMU people trying to deny anything bad about the school in a desperate attempt to preserve its image. How about just calling a spade a spade? JMU is NOT a diverse place, especially in comparison to other universities in the state. Other than conservative private schools like Washington & Lee, U of R, Hampden-Sydney, etc., name one state college in Virginia that’s less diverse than us. One.

        Also, to say “If the author of this article really wanted to make a change in the organization then they would have stayed involved and done it from the inside,” yeah, that’s easy for you to say. If the author thought she could’ve made the change from the inside as a one-woman army, do you really think she would’ve left? Take this more extreme example from jezebel.com: “My mother was in a sorority at Ohio State in the mid 60’s, and they refused to let a close friend of hers in because she was black. My mom considered quitting in protest, but decided to stay in to try to change things from within. She failed. It’s one of her biggest regrets to this day.” Some people just aren’t going to budge or aren’t going to recognize that there’s a problem at all. How do you expect to ‘change’ the minds of people like that all by yourself? If it becomes clear to you that something is a hopeless endeavor, would you really waste your time fighting a useless uphill battle trying to change everything, or would you make a stronger statement by leaving out of protest and removing yourself from that toxic situation? If you chose the former, you’re an idiot. And a glutton for punishment.

        As for “I for one would have gladly supported her and her causes to help create a more diverse organization based on her qualifications,” what would you have done? JMU kids blurt things like that out all the time, but would you have actually taken time out from your day to come to SA events and meetings, started a Facebook group, contacted the administration? Just THINKING “I support her and her cause” without actually putting in any effort to help her make the change does NOTHING.

        Think before you open your mouth. Too many brats don’t do that at this school.

    • B 02/02/2014 at 2:17 pm #

      It’s not their organization, it’s OUR organization. We are all Dukes and we are all represented by them.

  6. Spencer Dukoff 02/02/2014 at 2:11 pm #

    While I by no means speak for Ambassadors, as a member I appreciate the brutal honesty you have for the problem at hand. Sadly, at JMU diversity, in terms of color and ethnicity, is often the elephant in the room. It’s a problem, but there aren’t a lot of people who will step up to make the issue better. Although I agree that people of color may be underrepresented, I would say that this is a JMU problem, not solely an Ambassadors problem. I wonder what the statistics are for service and honors fraternities, or especially sororities on Greek Row and fraternities off campus. What about UPB or SGA? I think there is underrepresentation throughout the campus and to single out Ambassadors seems like a bit of a cheap shot. Lastly, I think your articles neglects diversity of experience, boiling down the word to the color of your skin or where you were born. Just because I am a white male does not mean I have a replicated perspective of every other white male on my campus. The diversity of leadership styles, prior experiences, family lives, hopes, and dreams within my organization is strong. I really enjoyed your article and hope it inspires both my own organization and others at JMU to start recognizing the many steps left to go before becoming truly “diverse.” I really hope this adds to the dialogue.

    • truequeerlatte 02/02/2014 at 2:31 pm #

      Spencer, thanks for your comments. I will say this article in no way intends to downplay other types of diversity that Ambassadors has been more aware of or single out Ambassadors as the only organization at JMU with issues. While I most certainly recognize these issues in other important areas of campus like SGA and Greek life, my personal experience was with Student Ambassadors and I felt telling this story from my personal perspective would resonate best with others. Individual diversity is important, and obviously not every white male is the same but I think we have to be careful so as not to assume that all white males are so radically different that an entire group of them should be described as diverse. People of color and other oppressed minorities experience poverty, violence, illness and the unique sense of community, empowerment and triumph that comes with overcoming those things at a higher rate than white people. Of course many white people experience those things as well, but when you put a group of white people together, you are more than likely going to end up with similar experiences and outlooks on issues like the one we are discussing now.

      • SadDuke 02/02/2014 at 2:35 pm #

        Thank you for being brave enough to post something like this. As a graduate of JMU and a former Student Ambassador I feel a deep, genuine sorrow that you had these types of feelings while being a member of our organization. Though I do agree with you that SA would benefit greatly from making an effort to increase the diversity of its members I want to also clarify and shed light on some “truths” you brought up.

        To say that a STUDENT organization has motives to “borrow” color from SMO for the sake of appearing more diverse to potential students is blatantly unfair. SA does not make those decisions, the Office of Admissions and the University do. The University, not SA, made that happen.

        I also want to express that SA does, by no means, attempt to make it more difficult for a student of color to enter the organization. In fact, while on the Exec board for SA (a few years ago), we went to meetings of student minority organizations (both racial and other types of diversity) with the goal of obtaining an applicant pool that truly represented the school. When the process was finished we only had 13 students of color apply, with 7 getting into the organization. When you take the 463 white students (only 35 of whom got in) it becomes apparent that the reason for a lack of diversity is NOT because we are systematically making it more difficult for a student of color to get in.

        Where I do agree with you is what occurs after an individual enters our organization. Ambassadors is a VERY tight-knit group of people who spend large amounts of time together. I by no means want to come across as pretending to understand what it feels like to be a racial minority in a room like that, but by no means is that the only way you can feel like an outsider in a group, nor is that the only type of diversity one may come across in an organization. What I can relate to is that feeling of being an outsider in SA. How it is intimidating to walk into a room and know you are different than most of the people in that room. That even when you talk to an individual or two about it for some reason it doesn’t seem to get any better. How you aren’t even fighting individuals in the organization, but the culture that has been in place for years already. You feel like there is no way you can climb that mountain and get some real change going. I get that. Anyone who has seen injustice in their student organization feels that. I simply wish I had known you felt that way during your time in SA so I could have done anything I could to help you climb that mountain.

        But that’s the issue. I didn’t know. Not because I am a racist. Not because I think that my skin color made me more qualified to be an Ambassador. I didn’t know because no one stood up and said, “hey! wake up! this is still an issue!” It makes me sad that you felt more compelled to leave than to stand up in front of the group (not just the exec board) and let us know of our faults. It makes me sad now because of two reasons. The first, is that a person ever felt that way as a member of the SA family, because that is not how a family should ever make you feel. You didn’t feel supported, cared for, or wanted for the beautiful person you are inside. You didn’t trust that we would listen and take to heart what you had to say. JMU is a school that prides itself on the community we have and in this case we failed to show you that community. For that, I feel a true and deep sorrow and I hope you know any Ambassador who reads this will feel the same. My second reason for wishing you had stood up and said something is because now you aren’t an Ambassador. You weren’t there to be a force and a light during the recruitment drive and application process (and now you are displeased with the result). You won’t be there to help a new member who is also a student of color (or, heck just feels out of place) find their way. Instead of carrying the banner and helping lead a group of students into a culture of truly understanding, wanting , and appreciating diversity you walked away, because as you said in you post “you were asked to do it all.” Yes, at first you would have had to do it all. You would have had to take a stance and be the leader. When their is ignorance you have to put effort in to educate on why it is wrong to be ignorant in that way.

        Instead, you walked away. I am truly sorry you felt that was the only option and I hope you know I took your post to heart. But you wanted change without being the change, and for that I am sorry too.

      • JMU student 02/02/2014 at 2:45 pm #

        “People of color and other oppressed minorities experience poverty, violence, illness and the unique sense of community, empowerment and triumph that comes with overcoming those things at a higher rate than white people.”

        This is bullshit. Your article is basically suggesting racist behavior by others when this statement you made yourself is extremely racist and stereotypical. Im black and I have tons of colored friends. The overwhelming majority of us come from the same backgrounds as the white kids on campus. It’s not like every black kid escaped slavery on a fucking plantation and made his way to JMU.

        • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 12:08 am #

          Hello, thanks for your comment. I definitely see your point. My intention was not to suggest that all black students come pre-packaged as low-income and downtrodden and have somehow made it to the top, but rather to say that our life experience is often very different much of which has to do with our skin color. The black community and any community of color is diverse in itself and to suggest that they aren’t would be shortsighted. Many students of color at JMU have similar economic and social backgrounds to white students here, but in my opinion you cannot put a group of white students in a room and expect to replicate the diversity you would see if half of them were students of color. Race means something beyond the color of our skin because people use it as a way to classify those who are deserving, smart, beautiful, etc. and those who are not. While my previous statement is actually valid, I should have included other things that make students of color unique and necessary in any space calling itself diverse. In addition, people of color are so often invisible in leadership positions, that being visible in groups like ambassadors can be critical and revolutionary, especially for prospective students regardless of our economic and social backgrounds. Hope this clears things up.

        • JJ 02/03/2014 at 2:01 am #

          it’s funny because I don’t know a single black person who uses the term colored people or “colored friends” in this case as a way to describe people of color. The only people that still use the term colored are Paula Deen and extremely ignorant people. We no longer live in the 1800’s so stop using that term.

          As for the post, I’m glad somebody shed some light on this situation!

          • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 9:37 am #

            Hey JJ,

            Thanks for your comment. To clarify, I am using the phrase ‘students of color’ not colored students or colored people, in order to refer more broadly to minority students at JMU. I am black and do not use the phrase colored people either. However, ‘people of color’ is becoming more and more accepted and used in academia and activist communities. I’m happy you liked the post!

            • Jessena 02/03/2014 at 9:54 am #

              JJ was referring to the other commenter JMU student saying “Im black and I have tons of colored friends.” Who says that???

              • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 10:43 am #

                My apologies, a little lost in all of the commenting.

          • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 10:50 am #

            JJ, my apologies for the last comment, I’ve been trying to crank out responses and missed who your response was directed towards.

      • Zachary Healy 02/02/2014 at 4:47 pm #

        As someone who has been a member of this organization for the past 4 years – and who also quit last semester – I have to say I am disappointed with your article. While I understand what you are getting at, you are missing the bigger picture.

        First of all, Student Ambassadors is not an inherently racist organization, nor is it simply because there aren’t enough people of color. Most organizations on campus are “full of white people”, as you so elegantly put it. While you are correct in claiming that 20% of the entire undergraduate population is non-white, I suggest that you do some research on the racial breakdown of students who actually take part in clubs and organizations (somewhere closer to 4,500).

        I am also pretty disappointed by the way you portray the application process. “It is time we demand a fair application process that does not discriminate against students of color.” Really? Out of everything that you could take issue with, you choose the application process? SA works hard to ensure everyone has their application read blindly by a large number of people before interviews even happen. During the group stage candidates are interviewed by 5 members, and during the individual stage 3 members. Individual SA members rarely conduct more than a few interviews. I think you might need to clarify what you mean, because right now it appears you are suggesting all of the “white people” harbor this group anti-white mentality – which is already rubbing off on your readers, as evidenced by SarahStar77 arriving at the conclusion that “Student Ambassadors is just a bunch of white people”.

        I can’t believe I am having to write this – and on a feminist blog, no less – but diversity doesn’t just come from the color of your skin. There are a number of intelligent and capable “white people” within that organization; for you to not even put a disclaimer in your article acknowledging them is again, only proof of the broad brush you are painting with. I have worked with some amazing Ambassadors who are truly kind and genuine people. Are there shallow, ignorant and misguided people in the organization as well? Yes – but that doesn’t make SA any different from any other organization on campus.

        Speaking of broad brush, you make no effort to define “diversity”. You only cite the number of black Ambassadors – what about Latino, Asian, or LGBT Ambassadors? I can think of at least 3 to 5 in each category, all of who bring a world of experience and diversity of thought to the organization. Perhaps you didn’t take the time to meet these people? You also fail to cite any examples of racism. One crappy joke is suddenly the entire organization advocating a position? Surely someone such as you sees the flaw in that thinking?

        Now, what is the real issue with Student Ambassadors? It goes much deeper than simply race. The problem is that there is an underlying sense of exclusiveness and lack of vision so thoroughly ingrained into its members that the organization has completely lost its focus.

        This is an organization that has let its mission statement fall to the waist side. It has created a culture where committees and points and cliques take precedence over giving tours. There is a belief that the committees and events we put on are more important than tours we give. On countless occasions over the years I have heard people talk about how tours aren’t fun and they wish they didn’t have to do them. Tour training is severely lacking. Quality control is non-existent. Parties and socializing take precedence. Or how about we talk about the fact that we are working for free for the Office of Admissions when the majority of tour guides on other college campuses are being compensated? How I had to pay for my own uniform when I joined?

        There are plenty of minorities within SA who subscribe to the above behaviors, which, again, go beyond race, and contribute to the overall negative experience had by some within the organization, including yourself.

        Could SA use more diversity? Of course it could! Differing perspectives are what make an organization grow. But racial diversity, while a problem, isn’t the underlying issue – it’s a lack of diversity on how to run an organization that plays such an integral role on this campus. Diversity of opinion on how the Executive board should be run, outlook on giving tours, and how we treat members of the organization who don’t fit the Ambassador stereotype we’ve created are all pressing issues that need to be addressed. And they certainly take priority over not having enough people who don’t look the same as (the majority) of the JMU population.

        As someone who has been a member of this organization for the last 4 years, I can completely identify with your disappointment upon finding out that Student Ambassadors really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That being said, your article is incredibly misguided, and your distillation of the true, legitimate problems within Student Ambassadors to simply having too many “white people” is ignorant and doing a severe disservice to the legitimate problem you are trying to raise. The notion that an organization is automatically diverse because it has people who “look different” from each other is a complete misunderstanding of the concept of diversity.

      • '04 Alumnus 02/02/2014 at 8:00 pm #

        I remember discussing the topic of diversity when I was a Duke. I remember that the school was very proud of its student diversity (meager as it was, and mostly Caucasian). I also remember speaking openly about this with other students of many races, ethnicities, and backgrounds at Taylor Down Under and with many student organizations. What I learned from this and the rest of my time at JMU was that my alma mater did have a rich diversity of ideas and perspectives that should have been celebrated and highlighted for incoming students. Unfortunately, the diversity that the university seemed to be focused on was the kind you could observe visually, not intellectually. That being said though, I cannot comprehend how the university would allow, let alone promote, the practices mentioned in the above article. One last thing I remember – the last conversation I had with a friend and fellow Duke, who asked if I was proud of the education I had attained at JMU. I was and I still am today, but when they asked if I was proud of my alma mater, I thought of issues like the one brought to light in this article and I couldn’t say yes.

  7. diversity is more than skin color 02/02/2014 at 2:25 pm #

    So you want ambassadors to solely look at race when accepting new members… if you want a racial diversity quota for any organization, that’s defeating the purpose of being inclusive, isnt it?

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 12:22 am #

      No I do not think that race is the only thing that should be considered. As the article states, students of color should be accepted on their merits, however their lack of presence in the organization would suggest that there is something happening to deter their acceptance. This article is simply a call to student ambassadors to figure out what that something is and fix it. Otherwise they are leaving it up to the student body to make their own assumptions.

      • public opinion 02/03/2014 at 9:50 am #

        Shleby, you applied and got in so you know how fair the application process is. How awkward would that be if on the application you had to put your race? Students are selected because of their spirit, their commitment to service, in other words… their merit! To demand that more minorities apply and be accepted… specifically more black students, in itself is racist. You are discriminating against other qualified applicants who happen to be white or fall under any othe demographic that doesnt fit yours. Your article makes many good relevant points but you can feel the anger in your words. Hate does not drive out hate after all. To title your article in such a way is considered slander in the real world. Diversity is important to white people too. Dont generalize us and say that we have no culture and dont have our own backgrounds.

        • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 10:47 am #

          Two thirds of the process is face to face interviews, so ambassadors know your race, even if not on the paper applications which were blind this semester. I never said black students should be accepted at a higher rate than other students. And I never said all white people don’t care about diversity. There are many people of color who are missing the point here too. And the article of my title is not slanderous. It simply preps readers for a topic. Discrimination does not have to be intentional in order to be real.

  8. Spencer Dukoff 02/02/2014 at 2:31 pm #

    I really appreciated the perspective and brutal honesty of this article. It sheds light on an issue that is uncomfortable for some people to discuss and an issue that often feels like a difficult one to solve. I think an open dialogue and presentation of ideas in an informed and motivated setting like this is how change begins to happen.

    As a member of Ambassadors, many of the details you point out hit close to home. There’s no doubt that if you look around a room of Ambassadors, it’s a lot of white faces. Diversity is the elephant in the room. Which is very similar to what you see when you walk around our campus on a typical day.

    I think one issue I have with your argument is that it boils down the word “diversity” to mean “color of your skin.” It doesn’t take in to account the vast amount of cultural diversity both in obvious ways (sexual orientation, socioeconomic background) and smaller ways (ambitions, life experiences, hobbies, political leanings). I have learned a lot from all the Ambassadors I have known over my past four years not because they are the same as me, but because they bring different perspectives into my life. I think it’s always a slippery slope in these dialogues to lament the lack of diversity by getting readers to see a picture of white people and make assumptions. I have found the members of Ambassadors to be diverse. Just because I am a white male does not mean I am a carbon copy of other white males in my class. And although I know you know that, I think it’s an important piece of the issue.

    Finally, I think Ambassadors is merely a small piece of this puzzle. I wonder what the diversity statistics are for PSP or APO, or Panhellenic and IFC? What about UPB? This isn’t to point fingers or deflect blame. It’s just to broaden the perspective of the issue at hand.

    What I am most sorry about is that you didn’t feel welcome in our organization or that you didn’t feel you were given the proper respect and attention when it came to that issue. I hope this article opens up a conversation and makes people feel more equipped to talk about diversity at JMU. Thanks for your honesty and for being bold in order to make this place even better. ShoutOut! is doing awesome things and I think it has only begun to scratch the surface of the impact it will have on this campus and in the everyday lives of its readership.

    • Spencer Dukoff 02/02/2014 at 2:33 pm #

      Whoops, thought my first comment didn’t go through! Sorry for any redundancies.

  9. JMU student 02/02/2014 at 2:37 pm #

    I’m a 5th year at JMU. I’ve had quite a while to experience the JMU culture as well as many other schools (spent a year at VCU). Having a very diverse background myself, it’s my honest opinion that you’re trying a little too hard to identify a problem that isn’t actually there. There will always be fluctuation in student enrollment, diversity, and representation in the Student Ambassadors.

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 12:19 am #

      This is true, but the problem seems pretty apparent to me.

  10. Matt Wisniewski 02/02/2014 at 3:10 pm #

    Hi Shelby,
    It saddens me to hear that you had an unfavorable experience with SA. It’s my hope that your personal feelings did not create a bias for your stance on this issue. You are correct in your assertion that SA is overwhelming dominated by white students. As a past president, I worked very closely with Admissions (since SA does not serve alumni) to understand this issue. The purpose/relationship of SMO and SA is unfortunately too complicated to explain in a single comment, but know that Admissions does not simply sweep the diversity conversation under the rug.

    Unfortunately, your argument is misguided when you say that:
    “It is not okay that students of color and international students cannot access this organization in the same way that white students can………It is time we demand a fair application process that does not discriminate against students of color.”

    The issue at hand is that very few students of color wish to apply. Perhaps this is why you maintain a belief that few students of color make it through the application process. Considering your limited knowledge of the membership process, I’d hope that you’d seek to fully understand it before criticizing it. I also find it extremely bold of you to say that SA discriminates against students based on race; there is so much underlying hatred in that statement.

    What this article should be about is: How can a predominantly white organization attract the interests of non-white students? Perhaps that discussion would be more beneficial to the future diversity of SA than simply placing blame. I wish you all the best in your personal endeavors and hope that students will be able to create a brighter future for JMU and its student organizations.

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 12:16 am #

      Matt, Thanks for your comments! While I appreciate your desire to help me understand the application process, I would argue that the burden of proof should not be on me as an independent student at this university who is unaffiliated with ambassadors. I do not hate anyone in the organization, only the way that students of color are being discriminated against at JMU. It is up to the organization to process why it is that students of color are not applying (if this is really the case) and then do something about it, should they care to see them in the organization. Everything I included in my personal essay was true to my knowledge, all of my experiences first hand. I know it is difficult to see blame placed on an organization that seems to be doing nothing intentionally wrong and I would agree that they are not doing this intentionally. However, if students of color are not applying people should be asking why rather than accepting that fact. And if they are, we should be asking why we aren’t seeing more of them accepted. As it stands, racial diversity in Student Ambassadors along with many other student orgs is unacceptable.

      • Carson Monroe 02/03/2014 at 4:44 pm #

        You can’t make anyone WANT to be an ambassador. Everyone is given an equal chance, sent the same emails, etc. Are you saying that colored students need to be marketed to differently than the cookie cutter “white kids”? Doesn’t seem right to me, especially when it seems you’re calling for equality

        • ladychaotica21 02/03/2014 at 8:50 pm #

          You’re absolutely correct, Carson, you can’t make anyone want to be an ambassador. However, you can create an atmosphere that isn’t accommodating to a diverse group of applicants–thereby solidifying a systemic message of exclusivity. This is exactly what truequeerlatte is getting at. Her call for action entails a climate of inclusion–which actually aligns quite perfectly with our vision of equality.

    • A "Non-White" 02/03/2014 at 3:38 pm #

      Please do not refer to people of color as “non-whites.” We are not defined by our relationship to white people.

  11. verta 02/02/2014 at 3:39 pm #

    as a graduate of jmu (1004) and at one time the president of the black student alliance, your piece resonates with me on so many levels. thanks for your courage!

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 12:33 am #

      I am so glad to hear that it did something for you. Thank you for connecting with me! I hope you’ll continue to follow posts and see what else I can shake up on campus before graduation!

  12. verta 02/02/2014 at 3:39 pm #

    i graduated in 1994 not 1004 :-)

  13. Na Shai 02/02/2014 at 3:57 pm #

    I’m not a JMU student (UVA alumni here – Wahoowa!), but we had some of the same issues at our University (and these issues still continue).

    Frankly, as a person of color, I am tired of people trying to promote some kind of post-racial “We don’t care about color!” “Diversity is so much more than race, it’s diversity of THOUGHT” type of argument. Yes, it is, but no, this is not the time or place for that discussion. What the people who use this argument fail to realize is is that when you say things like “I don’t see color” or “I see everyone the same”, you are also expressing your lack of self-awareness of the privilege that surrounds you. As a member of the majority, you can choose not to see race — that is not an option that people of color (I do not say minority, because it is demeaning) have. We can’t just wake up one morning and say, “Gee, I don’t want to be a Latina / African American / Japanese / etc. person today.” We have to live with our race, and the experiences that come with it, every single day.

    So, yes, it is wrong, JMU, that your student ambassadors do not reflect your student body, and no, you aren’t the only American institution that has this issue, and yes, we need to be able to appreciate the wide tapestry of differences that each person brings to the table. But ignoring race? Sweeping it under the table because you’re not comfortable enough to talk about it? Well, that’s just a privilege that today, in the 21st century, we do not have.

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 12:31 am #

      Na Shai! Thank you for your warm words! I am carrying them in my spirit as I go to bed tonight! I could not agree more, such a privilege it is to be able to ignore race altogether.

    • trulyu 02/04/2014 at 2:52 pm #

      Thank you!

  14. yourstrulymia 02/02/2014 at 4:16 pm #

    So so happy you wrote this. Thank you so much for your honesty and insight. Me and my friends were actually talking about this last night, and we were so overjoyed when we saw this. Good for you for speaking up!

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 12:35 am #

      Yes! This stuff is so real! I notice things like this everyday on campus and I’m so glad to be connecting words with people who feel the same. Keep speaking!

      • ahbs'99 02/03/2014 at 8:10 am #

        Greetings Sis, first I want to thank you for the courage to speak. This is actually what we need more of. As a graduate ’97, ’99, a scholarship football player, and 2yr member of UPB- _ultural Awareness Chair, I understand this issue intimately. I believe the solution lies in our actions though words are sometimes needed to spark a flame. Someone stated previously that all of these orgs are ours not theirs. We also must understand that power conceeds nothing without a challenge. So, to my current family of Dukes I challenge you! In the words or the immortal ATLiens- Get up! Get out! And, do something! If you want it to change be that change. If you want more ambassadors, go be ambassadors! I would have loved for my chair in UPB to stay diverse and I believe we did for at least 1 more year after me. No one can stop you but you and at the end of the day its not up to your white, priveledged counterparts to do it. I look forward to reading about your progress. Peace.

        • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 9:32 am #

          Thanks for your words!

  15. JMU Alum 02/02/2014 at 4:21 pm #

    I appreciate the motion for change from this individual, but I am severely disappointed by her tone and harsh criticism. I fear that her words will do the opposite of create change in Student Ambassadors. I fear that it will drive minorities away from an organization that offers an experience for quality leadership and service. Discrimination is absolutely unseen in the SA application process, and to use such a word (especially in an article’s title) is far from deserved.

    The organization seeks students from JMU who hope to share the Madison Experience with others and perpetuate change for a positive student culture. All are welcome to serve with such a purpose. If this describes you, the organization wants YOU. No application process is perfect, and not all are accepted. But this one has been created (and is occasionally adjusted) to make the opportunity accessible to all. I am disappointed that this person left the organization before assisting with the following application process. I know her insight and actions would have strongly helped this issue in a positive way.

    – From a JMU Alum. A Student Ambassadors alum. A past officer of the membership/application board.

    • imagineherstory 02/03/2014 at 8:52 pm #

      Thank you for your comment. Our blogger felt discrimination is a problem within the SA organization, but if you’ll notice she did not say it occurred in the application process. She was simply talking about her experience within the organization, and if you did not feel welcome within a place would you really want to force yourself to continue? Especially when there was no guarantee that your changes would be listened to? It’s exhausting to be the “token” anything within an organization and she shouldn’t have been expected to take on the diversity issue alone.

      • JMU Alum 02/03/2014 at 10:29 pm #

        The article states “It is time we demand a fair application process that does not discriminate against students of color.” That sounds like she’s saying it’s currently discriminatory. Also… another commenter above suggested that she was not accepted after her interview because she was a person of color. I just want to make sure the public knows that the application process is completely fair and available to all. That is an unjust accusation to say otherwise. I will, however, say that SA could improve how it reaches out to minorities to apply.

        I’m not sure to what extent the writer exhausted all resources, but writing an article like this online after leaving the organization does not help the situation. Yes, it creates conversation, but do you think a minority reading this article would even think about applying now? She’s doing a better job of shutting out minorities than Ambassadors ever did.

        As a new member, I had a hard time adjusting to a new culture as well. I know this is difficult for anyone in any new organization, but I had a passion for the mission behind SA. I felt uneasy at first, but yes I stuck with it. Change does not come easy, but she could have actually done something about it if she stuck around to assist with the application process. Without doing so, her argument loses a lot of credibility. She could have mentored or been there for other minority students and contributed in a big way. This article might create conversation, but such conversation was ignited from negativity and unnecessary drama.

  16. Bre 02/02/2014 at 4:21 pm #

    “A Student Sick of Being Made to Feel Bad About “Racism” ” <——-Please for the love of god think before you type, if you're person their struggle is your struggle…..Great article by the way! Very Insightful!

    • Former Student 02/03/2014 at 6:40 am #

      Just a short note, as a former graduate and current HR, the question of racial diversity and a discriminatory process should be looked at from a different perspective. While it would be great if the population of SA can be more closely representative of the population if the student body, the implication in that equation is that the applicant pool is equally representative. My presumption is that it is not, and Matthew nailed it on the head that we need to look at how to encourage more racially diverse students (since this seems to be the issue discussed) into the applicant pool.

      The telling statistic to find out if there is racial discrimination would be to see if the SA body is representative of the applicants that apply. All things being equal (qualifications, etc.), if there are 2% racially diverse applicants, the SA body should be roughly the same percentage. It is illegal to simply select a racially diverse applicant for the sake of increasing the racial diversity, as a Caucasian person could, and successfully argue (look at recent case law) that THEY we rejected on the basis of race.

      I think all agree that we need to increase the diversity of the student body, and accordingly SA, but I disagree that the issue at hand is based on the selection process; rather, it should be about becoming more inclusive and open to a broader group of individuals (and having those individuals apply….it is a two-way street).

      • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 9:44 am #

        Thanks for your comments, As my article stated, I am not suggesting students of color be accepted on race alone. Minority students are applying, so the question is why aren’t they getting in. It is not my job to fix the problem, only to call attention to it. I think there is perhaps a subconscious discrimination that is happening during the application process or maybe not enough outreach during recruitment. Maybe it is something else entirely, but I bet if there were more students of color evaluating applications and conducting interviews, we would see less of a discrepancy in the result.

        • JMU Alum 02/03/2014 at 10:47 am #

          You would have been a great asset to assist with conducting interviews. I wish you would have stuck around to help make that change!

          • ElFeministo 02/03/2014 at 11:20 pm #

            Hey J, thank you for taking the time to read our blog. I think what Latte was getting at was that there was a lack of support to make the change. After calling the diversity into question and being afforded the opportunity to be on board, she still did not receive the kind of support SA promised. Why would you stick around in an organization that doesn’t support you and makes you feel uncomfortable being in? Before I end, I wanted to say thank you for accepting Latte’s opinion and not flat out discrediting her (a wonderfully refreshing change of pace), and even offering her a chance to still contribute to the organization (again, refreshing). Her story brought to light an issue that you are obviously interested in addressing and I appreciate and applaud that you want to step out towards “being the change” in promoting diversity. Thank you for embodying our university’s motto. Go Dukes!

  17. Rob Anderson 02/02/2014 at 5:25 pm #

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience with Student Ambassadors. Those comments regarding the tour training and general lack of help isn’t great to read.

    I graduated from JMU in ’09 and was a Student Ambassador for four years, and served on the membership board. During my time on the board, we made this process as fair as possible – discrimination towards or against a minority or a majority was not accepted and we tried our best to leave these things out of the process.

    The photo of this new group probably represents the ratio of white to non-white applicants. I agree that this needs to be more representative of the ratio at the school, if not a higher percentage of non-white students.

    I think the big issue is recruiting applicants from diverse backgrounds, rather than the process itself. I think every member wants a racially diverse organization, while also keeping the integrity of the application process and ensuring that the highest scores make the cut. The best way to get this is by reaching out to minority organizations to get a better mix of applicants.

    Coming from someone who truly loved the organization, I’m really sorry for your experience here and wish it hadn’t turned out like that.

  18. DukeDawgs 02/02/2014 at 10:52 pm #

    First off props for speaking out. Starting a conversation leads to awareness, which hopefully will lead to action if appropriate. Have you considered looking into how many non-white students apply to the position in the first place? Maybe there’s more room to encourage minority students to get involved? Or attract minorities to JMU in the first place. I do personally believe that JMU could bring in more International Students with DC being not too far away. As for African Americans, we are fortunate in Virginia to have several nationally ranked universities. There could be communities at other universities that are more attractive to this demographic. Take George Mason for example with 17% Asian Population, 9% African American, and 11% hispanic/ latino. Keep in mind JMU was founded as a Women’s college which I believe still reflects on the male/female ratio. Anyone can look at admissions statistics and see that JMU is 80% white and 60% Female with the Asian population larger than the African American population. But discriminatory JMU is not. Being a second generation Italian American, I’m disappointed in your generalization of whites.My great uncles made nets for shrimp boats and by the end of their careers owned docks and boats because of the opportunity America afforded them. Europe and South America have extremely diverse cultures, even within their own borders. As does Africa or Asia. JMU taught me in great depth about this topic and significantly improved my cultural knowledge allowing me to understand different perspectives, cultural norms, and how to build relationships with people that can seem totally different. The world isn’t perfect but there’s always room to improve. Also, please never refer to a nacho joke as racist. That’s such a weak use of a very degrading word.

  19. Morgan Gaines 02/03/2014 at 1:37 am #

    This piece is brilliant, and as a JMU minority student, who applied to Student Ambassadors, it resonates with me. I can wholeheartedly say that I 100% agree with you. And it’s funny, because I was just saying how I wanted to write a letter to the editor about this topic, last night! Seeing the pictures of the new student ambassadors and noticing ONE person of color disappointed me, especially for an organization who supposedly prides themselves in diversity. I gave tours for SMO with SA and when I shadowed a student ambassador, she had no information on CMSS or any other diversity organizations at JMU and simply deferred those questions to me. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now it’s infuriating. I just wanted to say thank you for having the courage to write this post, and I am behind you. Also, I’d like to say that it’s not that minorities are not applying for SA. I applied, with credentials just as strong as the next, and got through the first anonymous round, but was cut after the interview round. Why? Not sure.

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 9:38 am #

      Morgan! Your comments are soo important. I’m glad to hear from someone who experienced this first hand and understands the issues. Let’s get connected. I’ll send you an email and follow up!

      • Morgan Gaines 02/03/2014 at 6:02 pm #

        That’d be great!

    • Fellow Student 02/03/2014 at 4:29 pm #

      I think it is unfair to suggest that you were denied acceptance to SA because you are black. We have to keep in mind that HUNDREDS of students apply, and HUNDREDS get denied.
      In response to your experience shadowing a tour, I’m sorry it infuriated you. However, many times, SMO simply has more information about CMSS. Please note that on tours, Ambassadors are NOT full of detailed facts about other student organizations. Ambassadors do not neglect SMO. It is simply impossible to be expected to know everything about everything, which is probably why this tour guide asked for your input. If an Ambassador was shadowing a SMO tour, I would expect the SMO guide to allow the Ambassador to speak about their own organization.

      • Morgan Gaines 02/03/2014 at 9:19 pm #

        I’m not suggesting or implying anything, I am simply speaking from my personal experience with the process. If you want to assume that that is the reason I was denied acceptance, but so be it. But please do not put words in my mouth. Also, I understand that Ambassadors are not detailed about every organization on campus, however, a general knowledge should be expected. And from my experience, the guide I shadowed did not ask for my input, she simply was unable to speak on CMSS’s behalf, at all. Which I think is disappointing.

  20. Billy Jack 02/03/2014 at 2:06 am #

    It’s cause black people are probably to lazy to apply lol and also most of our school is white and there are probably the exact same percentage of white people that get turned down as black.

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 9:34 am #

      I’m approving this comment so that y’all can see the racism that is present at JMU. Billy Jack, the correct form of the word is ‘too’ not ‘to’ and you argue against yourself here stating that no black people don’t apply, yet they turn down the same amount. Which is it?

  21. Cory 02/03/2014 at 9:30 am #

    I don’t know how much I trust this article. I highly doubt student ambassadors are turning down students of color because they aren’t white. The article states that there should be 24 ambassadors of color in order to match the student population; I don’t think 14 is too bad. I’m not white and I know that this is a predominantly white school, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that most of the ambassadors are white too.

    • imagineherstory 02/03/2014 at 9:36 pm #

      It is a piece about her personal experience within the organization, so there shouldn’t be a question about trust because it is about what she personally experienced.

      • A Damn Proud Duke 02/03/2014 at 9:57 pm #

        Right, because no one has ever lied or skewed the truth before…

        And she didn’t provide one ounce of evidence for any discrimination whatsoever.

      • Uhh 02/04/2014 at 6:57 pm #

        A person can say they experienced a trip to the moon, just because they said they experienced it doesn’t mean I have to trust it

  22. What is the Definition of Equality? 02/03/2014 at 10:20 am #

    Question: If the application process was made easier for students of color, would that not be racism also? Would that not be saying that colored students are unable to go through the same rigor as Caucasian students?

    It is clearly a problem if people are being turned away because they are colored, but if they are going through the same equal process then I see no issue. I am not claiming to know anything about the process, but I think we need to look at the definition of equality here. Equality is not making things easier for particular people, but making sure that the process is fair.

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 10:44 am #

      My suggestion is not that the process be made easier. Only that it be made more just.

      • daniellagher 02/03/2014 at 11:01 am #

        Yes, but if you want the Ambassadors to “correctly” portray an image of the racial percentages at JMU, then you impose a system that uses quotas. Again I know nothing about this system, but say there are 20 posistions and 100 applicants. By the JMU percentage (20%) 4 positions must be filled by minorities. Now say only 10 minorities apply. That gives them a 40% chance while Caucasian students have a 18% chance. This is just hypothetical, but what you are suggesting is just as unequal as what you are pointing out.

      • daniellagher 02/03/2014 at 11:18 am #

        My problem is that what you are suggesting is a quota, which I find equally unfair.

        Just hypothetically. Knowing that 20% of JMU students are minorities, say there are 20 positions and 100 applicants. Then there are 4 positions for minorities. Now say only 10 minorities apply then they have a 40% chance of getting a spot while Caucasians have 18% chance. What about that is fair?

        • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 12:21 pm #

          I am not suggesting a quota and have already addressed this point in previous comments. Please refer to those remarks.

          • daniellagher 02/03/2014 at 2:32 pm #

            I apologize for not reading your previous comment. In that comment you say “No I do not think that race is the only thing that should be considered. As the article states, students of color should be accepted on their merits.” I argue that merit should be the ONLY factor. Minority/majority status being an advantage is just as unjust as it being a disadvantage. Not only does it make the process unfair for majorities, but more importantly it projects the idea that minorities are less capable. Again, if status is in fact playing a discriminatory role, it is unjust, but as long as the argument is that status should play a role in a more “fair” way I cannot agree.

          • daniellagher 02/03/2014 at 2:39 pm #

            I apologize for ignorantly not reading that comment prior to my comment.

            I did notice that you stated, “No I do not think that race is the only thing that should be considered. As the article states, students of color should be accepted on their merits.” I would argue that minority status should not play any role in the process. It is equally unjust that status is an advantage as it being a disadvantage. Not only does it put majorities at a disadvantage, but more importantly it projects minorities as less capable. I do agree that if discrimination is playing a role it is unjust, but a more “fair” role is equally unjust.

      • LL 02/03/2014 at 2:36 pm #

        How would YOU suggest the process be made more just? I’d hope that before you’d write a controversial opinion piece such as this one, you’d have some idea of how to solve the issue at hand.

        • imagineherstory 02/03/2014 at 9:19 pm #

          She might not have the answer yet, but she formulated the question to provide context for thoughtful dialogue on an incredibly pressing social issue.

        • FemOnFire 02/06/2014 at 7:24 pm #

          A great way to make the process more just could be by creating an organization with more diversity-focused and related training. If its members are receptive to more diverse membership, and more inclusive of the members they had, they would retain and eventually recruit more diverse applicants.

          The author does not claim she quit SA because the ratios of its members were not representative of JMU. She does state that she felt that the members of the organization, and maybe at times the values of the organization itself, created a space where she felt uncomfortable, and could not seek enough allies within the organization to make it comfortable enough to stay in it.

          When SA, other on-campus organizations, and JMU itself, can make all members (students) feel welcomed and included, and not excluded based on facets of their identity, it will be an organization (University) that is more successful at retaining and recruiting a more diverse membership (student population).

  23. Ian W. ('12) 02/03/2014 at 12:08 pm #

    Isn’t forced diversity simply pandering? Without numbers on rejection rates, the article is mere supposition as to why or why not certain candidates are accepted. I count 7 or 8 guys, in the photo posted of the SA class, out of the 30ish people there. That’s not a 60/40 split – so is it sexist? I can empathize with your feeling of cultural isolation, but part of your problem is looking for black faces first, instead of just faces. Look for alignment in values, not a shared genetic heritage.

  24. Can we clear some things up 02/03/2014 at 12:47 pm #

    So, what do you propose ambassadors does about it? You’ve made your points and stated your opinions, but all you’re saying is that it should change. You’re not saying how it should change. You’re not giving any examples that the organization (in reality your target is the whole school, but you’re using ambassadors as a martyr) can use in order to make changes. Granted you don’t think it’s your position to make this change, you’ve made that clear, BUT you also seem to care more about creating controversy then you do about creating change.

    Your argument is also a little hypocritical, you’re inherently calling an organization racist, but yet you were accepted into that organization. So obviously they’re not racist.

    I understand the main purpose was to create a buzz about this topic, but why did you drop last semester and wait 5 months to post this topic? Right when new members got in? To make people feel uncomfortable? You’re doing exactly to these new members what you’re saying happened to you, you’re making them feel uncomfortable.

    Honestly I just want answers to these questions, because all you seem to be doing is restating the same answers and avoiding answering anything,

    Thank you

    • imagineherstory 02/03/2014 at 9:32 pm #

      Truequeerlatte started the conversation and that is the first step in order to create change. She’s not trying to say that she has all the answers, but I think that by calling attention to the issue at hand she will help others to begin to create the change that we ALL should desire. Also, I don’t think she ever explicitly called them racists just that there was discrimination within the organization which is not the same thing. Finally, if you take the time to read about the author in the”Who We Are” section you’ll see that this is her first semester blogging and she didn’t have the platform until this moment.

  25. Thoughts from an SA Alum 02/03/2014 at 1:11 pm #

    I’ve been following this post and responses since Sunday morning. At the end of the day, it seems to me that Sanford has made a great point. Rather than jump to the defense, SA and other JMU organizations should be taking a critical lens to their organization and take other JMU students views into account. As representatives of a campus and a very vast student body, that is their responsibility. Whether or not the diversity discrepancies found in Student Ambassadors is intentional or not, I can attest that none of the authors lived experiences expressed here are untrue.

    It is clear to me that nearly all non-Ambassadors are in agreement with the authors remarks and nearly all current Ambassadors are offended & upset. While the offenses that you’re being called out for MAY NOT BE INTENTIONAL, they are IMPORTANT.

    As an Ambassador alum, it hurts me to express how disappointed I have been with the organization and how let-down I felt in my last few semesters at JMU (including those where I served on the Executive Board). When a dedication to service and compassion outweigh pride, this organization will be successful. My advice to current Ambassadors: take other voices into account. Leadership is not about dominating a conversation, it’s about facilitating one and learning from others. When the efforts to improve your image are geared in the direction of doing what’s right rather than hushing your criticism, your image will be restored.

  26. Kim 02/03/2014 at 2:04 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I feel like a lot of people are missing the point of your argument; you’re clearly not advocating that SA mandate a “quota” for students of color, but pointing out that SA doesn’t foster an environment that feels welcoming to students of color, which discourages them from applying and creates an imbalance of representation within the organization. While this may not be intentional on their part, the vitriol of some of the responses to this assertion does convey that this is an issue the organization may not be willing to address. Additionally, I’m surprised that more people haven’t addressed the issue of Ambassadors not knowing the role CMSS plays on our campus. If it’s part of their responsibility to know the major aspects of student life at JMU but CMSS is regularly excluded, it communicates to prospective students that we don’t value their organization’s role on our campus.

  27. Nandi Alexander 02/03/2014 at 2:36 pm #

    As a former member of Students for Minority Outreach and being invited to meetings/tours with Student Ambassadors, I am not surprised at this post. I am very happy that someone discusses the problems in this organization. I KNOW FIRST HAND that Student Ambassadors is not trying to embrace diversity. On campus tours, I have heard numerous ambassadors pass CMSS and either not say anything or not accurately discuss what CMSS does. Or if a SMO member was shadowing a tour (when requested if minority students were visiting) they would look to us to answer questions about diversity. Student Ambassadors in my opinion is not reflective of the population of JMU or the possibility of JMU expanding its population to be more diverse. I felt at times as serving on the executive board of SMO that they only reached out to SMO when there were prospective minority students coming to visit the university.

  28. Completely Confused 02/03/2014 at 2:50 pm #

    Can someone explain to me why having a bunch of white people within one area or organization is always considered a bad thing. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with the author about this organization not accepting students of color, but this is something that has always confounded me. Why is it considered bad that “only” 20% of JMU is non-white? What is inherently awful about having a bunch of white people in one school and why is that something that needs to be changed?

  29. erwatso2 02/03/2014 at 4:30 pm #

    I find your post very informative, and while I personally do not know what you went through, and I do understand where you are coming from. I am not saying you are wrong by any means in what you stated, but change should start somewhere and maybe it should have started with you; that’s what I did at my school. I went to The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) where there is only 75% of the school population is white and the other 25% is other. I am a black female who attended the university with most of my family members not in agreement with my decision. I knew it was going to be hard, but I wanted to something that I wanted to do.
    When I joined my ambassador program, there may have been 5 blacks out of about 150 members (maybe more). The next year, I was a part of the leadership council that contained about 8 members. That same year, there were maybe 20+ more blacks within the organization. My 3rd year I became the executive director of the Ole Miss Ambassador organization, with 3 blacks on leadership council, and many more within the organization. Through my actions and perseverance, and I didn’t let statistics define me and how I ran the student organization. By no means was it easy, but I did it with help of my friends, professors, and members of Admission Staff.
    The reason I got a hold of this article was because I have a few friends that are apart of JMU Student Ambassadors. I KNOW for a fact they are not racist by any means, but again, I don’t know the group as a whole. It can be though being the minority in any situation, but I do hope that this gives you confidence in knowing that change can happen, as long as you help make it happen.

    • JMU Alum 02/03/2014 at 10:45 pm #

      This is awesome. Thanks so much for sharing! I am so glad you made such an impact on your own organization!

  30. FemOnFire 02/03/2014 at 5:59 pm #

    I am so proud of this author for speaking out about her experience of genuinely trying, both to feel comfortable in Student Ambassadors, and to change the problems she saw from the inside, and being dissatisfied with the result of either.

    Many commenters are getting caught up in the (inaccurate) assumption that the author is arguing that race is the only facet of diversity worth reflecting on. However, I have also had the experience of feeling alienated in this organization as a queer woman. Despite a year and a half of effort to initiate some kind of training or workshop for LGBT issues, and even offering to allow Ambassadors to take advantage of an already existing program available through Madison Equality, I also achieved no success.

    I believe that a major issue at play here is the difference between theoretically wanting an understanding and inclusive atmosphere in the organization and conceptualizing what that organization would look like and taking actual steps to get there. I am sorry that it seems like the current members feel like they are being attacked. I hope this can be a time for them to reflect on what it truly means to positively represent James Madison University to prospective students, guests, and current students through service to the JMU community.

  31. ElFeministo 02/03/2014 at 6:17 pm #

    Latte, thank you so much for contributing such an enlightening post! After writing for ShoutOut for almost two years, I’ve come to value critical discourse like this. At its heart, feminism thrives on individuals shining a light towards oppressive structures of our culture that had previously gone unnoticed or unquestioned. While this story focuses on a small student organization, it has far reaching implications on the desperate need for diversity throughout JMU as a whole. I hope that from this we as a community of JMU students, faculty and alum can start a broader conversation of diversity on our campus.

  32. Hiding something? 02/03/2014 at 7:13 pm #

    Why are you filtering what comments are visible on this page? That’s not very transparent of you.

    • truequeerlatte 02/03/2014 at 8:07 pm #

      Here is what it says in our laws of discourse on our blog:

      “Everyone has something to say, and that’s exactly what a blog is for! What THIS blog isn’t for, though, is comments that are intentionally inflammatory, sexist, racist, homophobic, classist, ableist or otherwise uncool. Such comments will be deleted at our merciless discretion without any remorse. Please be civil in all commenting on the blog, and make it as safe a place for conversation as possible.”

      All rights reserved to the individual bloggers content. ©

    • FemOnFire 02/03/2014 at 8:20 pm #

      ElFeministo and I are both writers for this blog, which is why our comments were automatically approved. When people outside of the blog comment, their comments must be approved before they can be seen by the public. There’s been a lot of traffic on this particular post and the author is a student with a lot of other time commitments. I’m certain she will go through the comments for review as soon as she has time to dedicate to it.

      • ... 02/03/2014 at 8:41 pm #

        Seems to only post the comments in support of her

        • ElFeministo 02/03/2014 at 9:17 pm #

          Thank you for you patience. This article is garnering a lot of response and we are taking the time to read through all of them thoroughly. If you read through the comments there’s representation in support and against this article. The only comments we are not approving are inflammatory in nature and against our “Laws of Discourse.”

  33. Frustrated Individual 02/03/2014 at 8:57 pm #

    I definitely think there needs to be change in the way things are done, not just in SA but in student organizations throughout JMU. Whether it’s in the application process or in getting people of color to feel more welcome in these organizations. Also, I find it extremely appalling that SA will borrow minorities from CMSS for tours when needed yet when they have the chance to blend these people of color into their organization, they choose not to. As an African-American, it makes me feel as if we’re pawns used to make them look good but not good enough for permanent positions.

    As said in previous comments, people are uncomfortable discussing race so running to the ‘color-blind’ approach is a way of comforting people in dealing with race. While it’s a great idea in theory, it’s simply inaccurate. Minorities in this country have been and will be associated with their race. Always. Minority groups also come with a history of struggle and triumph so to simply “not see color” ignores the plight of all those before us.

    Lastly, the concept of diversity in different forms has been discussed tremendously throughout JMU this year. During FROG week, there was a “We Are JMU” program for freshman to discuss diversity at JMU – a school particularly known for lacking diversity. While it was great and unifying, trying to push color out of the diversity equation ignores the fact that in today’s society people’s socio-economic standing, where they come from, hobbies, interests, and maybe even life experience’s have some inadvertent relation to their race.

    Thanks so much for speaking out about an issue extremely relevant issue!

  34. Be the change? 02/03/2014 at 10:33 pm #

    If the organization was on board to make the changes you thought would help, why didn’t you stick around to change them?

    I understand a lot of change from one person is difficult, but it starts with one passionate person and a willing group of listeners and it seemed you could have been that person. I think maybe taking action and implementing the solutions you thought could help, could have affected things in a much more active, and far less passive, way.

    • ElFeministo 02/03/2014 at 11:58 pm #

      One passionate person does not cause a movement. You can’t be a leader without followers, and if a group is only willing to hear one person’s dissenting opinion and not move towards action by truly supporting Latte and enacting change, why would anyone “stick around?” She didn’t abandon the cause, she realized the only way she was going to gain visibility for the issue and garner support towards a solution was to take it to another venue. Thank you for reading and contributing to our blog, we hope that this and other conversations push the JMU community towards collective action for change.

  35. Elisabeth 02/03/2014 at 10:38 pm #

    I may be wrong…but it looks like guys are underrepresented as well. I’m saying this as a female AND minority.

    • Kim 02/04/2014 at 2:20 pm #

      The author was speaking only to her experience as a woman of color in the organization, and can hardly be expected to address every issue of misrepresentation in Student Ambassadors. Additionally, from a social justice perspective when we talk about the necessity of equal representation in organizations, we’re not typically focused on ensuring groups with societal privilege (like white people, straight people and men) are included in the conversation because the system is already stacked in their favor. That isn’t to say that the voices of these groups aren’t important, but they’re certainly not underrepresented. If you’re truly concerned about whether or not men are having their voices heard on our campus, I suggest you look at the board of directors for JMU and the people serving in higher administrative positions, where the ratio of men to women is about 7:3.

  36. CurrentJMUStudent 02/04/2014 at 12:16 am #

    I would first like to say, I am even more proud to call myself a Duke after reading this article. Students speaking out and finding their voice is the beginning of solving the evident issues of our campus. JMU is a wonderful place, one that I call home. No matter where you go on our campus, you will always see smiling faces, doors being held open and many other acts of kindness; however, it would be a lie if I said, “no matter where you go on our campus you will always see students of color.” Yes, diversity does include personal experiences and aspects of differing personalities, but I think some individuals ignore the fact that a major aspect of diversity is race, culture, religion, etc. It is apparent that the student who wrote this essay was not discrediting Student Ambassadors and the great work Student Ambassadors does; the student was simply stating the experience she had in the organization, feeling underrepresented, at times uncomfortable and overwhelmed that the organization attracts so many white folk. Unfortunately, that is the “stereotype” almost all the groups at JMU has developed. Personally, I am a part of many organizations on campus, and can honestly say, in each organization I can count on one hand the number of minority individuals represented. I do believe JMU should somehow strive to achieve a more diverse student body, especially as we are trying to move to D1. How JMU accomplishes that, I do not know; however, I do know that it starts with students speaking up, recognizing issues, accepting issues and coming together to support one another. The author of this article took a lot of crap from some of the individuals that commented, but never once was she rude or cruel back. I would just like to applaud her on that, and thank her for posting this article.

  37. Elle 02/04/2014 at 12:55 am #

    During my first year at JMU (or even just frog week), I was happily surprised at how much of an emphasis the school placed on diversity. It’s no secret that JMU consists of mostly Virginia students and then some from a few other places along the eastern seaboard. However, the school makes a huge effort to include everyone, with frequent events promoting diversity and hundreds of clubs and organizations for everyone.

    In your attempt to make the community more aware and open-minded, you have defined diversity solely as one’s skin color…Perhaps you should see if women account for exactly 60% of SA. And that 75% are in-state, just to make sure its an accurate representation of the school. SA is a very competitive organization; are you suggesting they should accept a colored student over a potentially more qualified white student just to keep the correct white to non-white ratio?

    “However there are many qualified students on this campus who have been turned away from Ambassadors and many who do not apply because they see that Student Ambassadors is not a space for them”. Do you have statistics for such a hateful statement with no evidence?

    What are you fighting for? Because I feel that in a completely equal process, skin color would be an irrelevant factor in determining whether a student is accepted into the organization or not, right?

    You’re trying to draw attention to a problem that simply doesn’t exist. JMU Admissions makes every effort to accept students of all backgrounds as an attempt to make the student body diverse, (in more ways than just race, FYI) as do JMU’s clubs and organizations. It’s unfortunate that whites account for over 80% of JMU’s student population, but it is what it is…Can’t do much to change the group of applicants.

  38. purgold 02/04/2014 at 5:19 am #

    On a positive note, I think its interesting that this comes out a day before the Coke Super Bowl ad. The JMU mission statement states about becoming educated and enlightened citizens in the world. I truly believe discussions like this help shape us in this goal. Even as there are plenty of people on the larger scale who really don’t like the Coke ad because its not sung in English.

  39. davenpak 02/04/2014 at 10:52 am #

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I went to JMU as an undergrad, and now as a grad student. While I want to acknowledge some of the commenters pointing out that “race isn’t the only form of diversity,” I also feel like this is a line that is always used to discount the experiences of people of color (POC).
    On one hand, I think that is important to recognize. As a queer white dude coming to tour JMU it was really cool to see tour guides who I felt I could connect with; but it was also disconcerting. I was touring JMU with my then debate partner who is Pakistani, and I clearly remember both of us turning to each other and saying “why aren’t there people of color giving these tours?” We came from a community that was truly racially diverse, and while I cannot claim to understand her, or your experience, as someone who tries to be an ally to POC it felt gross to see white-washed diversity.
    As someone who has left organizations for political reasons I want to acknowledge the courage it took to write this, and to call out people when they need to be called out. For all the people urging this author to make change from within: it’s exhausting! When you are in a situation where you are systematically denied the ability to make change, when you are listened at instead of listened to, sometimes the only thing you can do is leave and try and make change outside of the system.

  40. Claire Austin 02/04/2014 at 8:06 pm #

    In response to an article that Shelby Wiltz posted on Saturday, 2/1/14

    I am a graduate of JMU, class of 2012, a former member of Student Ambassadors (2009-2012), and a former president of Student Ambassadors (2011).

    I want to express, first and foremost, that I am infinitely and crazily obsessed with James Madison University and Student Ambassadors (SA). I want that to be known to anyone reading this, because I want you to know I’m biased. I believe that both the institution and the organization are inherently good, with strong, meaningful missions, and made up of people with good intentions.

    Shelby, when I first read your essay, I was upset. I felt that an organization I had worked hard to lead, protect, and improve had been attacked. In taking a few days to think it over before responding, I now realize that my initial feelings of defensiveness, anger, and rationalization were natural human reactions. They happened because I am White, I am privileged, and I spent four years at JMU as a part of the majority, never having to think about my race or my privilege. I want you to know that I appreciate that a real dialogue about race, diversity, and inclusion at JMU has started because of your essay. It is long overdue and much needed. We need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable at JMU. We need to take responsibility, each and every one of us, for injustices in our society and community, whether we are intentionally committing them or not. We each have the power to make a difference, to be the change…and that change starts with us as individuals, where we are, and in the moment we choose to start it.

    With that being said, I would like to challenge current Ambassadors, JMU students, and anyone else participating in this dialogue: this issue that Shelby has bravely raised is not about intention, and at times, it may not even be about truth. It is about perception, which is reality. Perception is reality.

    Many are pointing to specific flaws they’ve found in Shelby’s article as a way to detract from her point, and my post is an effort to redirect this conversation to what I believe it’s really about. I hope this article prompts people to think about every group, space, and system on our campus that is exclusionary in nature or in practice. It may not be intentional, but that doesn’t matter. The bottom line is, according to Shelby’s perception, she is not valued as a person of color at JMU. If Shelby felt uncomfortable enough to leave SA, and months later still felt passionately enough to write about it, THAT is just as much our reality as any percentage found on a fact page. That’s what matters.

    In addition, this issue isn’t clear-cut and dichotomous. It may be hard to wrap your mind around…believe me, it took me 48 hours to be able to write this and I’m still processing it…but I know for sure that it can’t be chalked up to a simple phrase such as “Student Ambassadors are racist.” As someone who knows the policies and procedures of the membership process firsthand, I know there is nothing structurally that makes it discriminatory based on race, but I cannot account for the personal views of every interviewer. I don’t know if applicants were treated unfairly because of race, because I’m not inside the heads of the 150 people I led for a year. No one is. Regardless, there is so much more here, so I encourage you all to read the unfolding comments and discussion, take this back to your groups, talk, argue, develop, and try to figure this out. Read it as if it were written to your student organization, your residence hall, or a community you’re invested in. Because it could have easily been addressed to you. If you do that, you will accomplish exactly what this author set out to do. You will become more aware of the world around you, of the factors at play, of the things each individual brings to the table, and how valuable diversity can be.

    To my fellow Ambassadors—USE THIS. Use this as an opportunity to grow, to become better, to become more inclusive; I urge you to take advantage of the fact that you are leaders on campus and you can live that out in a new and meaningful way as leaders of social change and equality at James Madison University. I know you can do it. I have believed in you for five years and I won’t stop now.

    Thank you for your bravery, Shelby, and thank you to those who are reading, commenting, talking, processing, developing, and growing because of this essay.

  41. Ms. Black Hoo 02/04/2014 at 8:08 pm #

    Hi, I’m also a student from UVA. I just wanted to say that:

    1) we have encountered problems like this with our own organizations and received the same tired defensive reasoning for “why it’s not a problem” or “attempting to understand the problem” line from leaders of our predominately white and prestigious organizations.

    2) I wanted to commend you on your bravery for choosing to speak out on this issue.

    3) I also understand why you would leave. It’s taxing. As someone at a PWI, the race relation issues ended up making me feel so terrible, I had a relapse into depression. Save your health.

    This was a fantastic article that I related to on several levels. I’m so glad you wrote it and shared it on a public forum.

  42. John 02/04/2014 at 10:05 pm #

    I have a major issue with this article. Why is “whiteness” the problem for the lack of participation from “people of color” in extracurricular activities such as this one? Ever seen the football or basketball team? Is “whiteness” complaining that there are too many “people of color” on the field or court? So there is one group that has few “people of color”, so you go out and call JMU and the student body racists? How about you thank JMU for giving such things as football and basketball scholarships and giving YOU the opportunity to get a top notch education and giving YOU the ability to become a leader in our society. JMU is 22% African Americans in a country that is 10% African American. By the looks of that, JMU is doing a pretty good job giving “people of color” the opportunity to play sports, participate in Greek life and become a student ambassador. The color of your skin means nothing, if you are qualified for a position, then you get that position. There shouldn’t be a quota.

    • truequeerlatte 02/05/2014 at 12:07 am #

      A. JMU is 3.84% African American. I am referencing minority students as a collective.
      B. I didn’t receive a scholarship to JMU – so no one is doing me any favors.
      C. As I have stated numerous times, i am not advocating a quota.

      See the way that you assume I needed help to get to a top notch institution – racist. See the way you separate ME from YOUR society as if you own it? – racist. That’s exactly what this article is about.

      • John 02/05/2014 at 10:18 am #

        Okay you assuming I think that I own this society and that I separate you from my society is a racist thought within itself. You automatically assume because I disagree with your article, I am a racist. You just labeled me a racist on a public forum. And yes, there does seem to be an epidemic in this country. That epidemic is poverty in the African American community, so to be honest some black, even white students need help getting to college. That’s not a bad thing. It’s actually something our black president is trying to advocate for even more for such assistance. And I never said you specifically had assistance, but whether you like it or not, black, white, brown, purple, JMU offers a lot to everyone that a lot of colleges don’t offer. Do you think that the world is against you and no one is there to help you or anyone when you need it or that the world is going to offer you nothing and you have to go it alone? Because that’s not true. You are being educated in one of the most beautiful and revered colleges in the country. Be thankful. You have an amazing opportunity at that school. I suggest you do not tarnish it’s name.

        • truequeerlatte 02/05/2014 at 6:26 pm #

          John, you are trying to make me say thank you for something I earned on my own. I don’t appreciate it.You are asking black people collectively to be grateful to a white institution for an opportunity they are not providing. JMU gets just as much back, if not more for what it is providing minority students in sports scholarships.

      • John 02/05/2014 at 10:28 am #

        Also, the fact that you referred to the white people of that group you were in as “whiteness” is extremely offensive and I am blown away this was not proof read. If you are going to refer to yourself as an African American, the least you could do is refer to “whiteness” as European American. Not “whiteness”…

        • truequeerlatte 02/05/2014 at 6:24 pm #

          I refer to myself as black, not African American. And I don’t refer to white people as whiteness. I used that term in reference to a large and dominating group of white people. This is an opinion piece, so it does not require proof reading. No mistakes were made, I made each statement and chose each word intentionally.

      • Dark Knight 02/05/2014 at 12:26 pm #


  43. Evan 02/05/2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Hi Shelby-

    How are you? My name is Evan Witt and I am a JMU Alumni from the class of 2009. I recently came across your article/blog about the Student Ambassadors of JMU and I wanted to commend you on taking the initiative to write it. While at JMU I was the Vice President for Admissions in SA and actually went on to work in Admissions for a year after graduating.

    Your post (not sure exactly what to call it) hit a lot of chords with me. When I was in SA I knew there was a lack of diversity but made many of the same excuses you see in the responses to you (ie. Students of color don’t apply, JMU isn’t diverse, we’re diverse in different ways, etc). The reality is, this is just being in denial. I truly believe that SA was a transformative experience for me but that does not mean it does not have its flaws. I don’t believe the discrimination is intentional but it absolutely takes place.

    After leaving JMU I went to work and do graduate school at the University of Maryland, a truly diverse campus. It was not until I reached here that I began to realize just how discriminatory and polarizing the JMU community at large is for minority students. Through a lot of identity development work, studying of topics such as white privilege, higher education access, and others I began to understand just how blind I was while at Madison.

    I want to commend you for several things. One for writing this in the first place. Two for responding kindly and thoughtfully to each person who has responded to you. I have actually been saddened by the responses and attempts to either discredit your argument or displace blame and not take ownership for a very obvious issue. So in all, thank you. You are being the change and standing up for what you believe in. I hope that you are taking this forward with the likes of Michael Walsh, Mark Warner, and President Alger. I still have some very strong contacts back at Madison if I can support you in any way.

    Thank you for what you are doing and for being an inspiration.

    With admiration,


  44. Marvin 02/05/2014 at 4:39 pm #

    Return and fight for what is right, but more importantly fight for what you believe in. Leaving will not end or solve this… Inclusion is a very important part of America’s promise to all of its citizens

  45. changeforjmu 02/05/2014 at 5:33 pm #

    Reblogged this on timeforchangeatjmu.

  46. Anonymous 02/05/2014 at 6:06 pm #

    This is great. I don’t go to this University, and I a complete outsider, but I had to tell you that this article is wonderful. Not because I agree with everything you say, and not because you are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I don’t know enough about Student Ambassadors or JMU on my an accord to decide those things and whether or not I am in agreement.
    This is wonderful simply because it is communication. It is not overly aggressive, it isn’t accusatory, but just informative of a person experience in the hopes of an intellectual dialogue with a positive outcome and a perspective shared.
    Kudos to you for being intelligent, confident, and independent.


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