A PWI is a predominantly white institution. The abbreviation, PWI, is pretty much defined by its name. It’s a college or university where the student and faculty population consists mostly of white individuals. UA Little Rock is one of the most diverse institutions in the state. There is a little bit of every race and socio-economic background on campus. However, that doesn’t dismiss the fact that over half the student population is white. Therefore, UA Little Rock would be classified as a PWI.
For some black students, attending a PWI can be an overwhelming experience. Especially if that’s not the environment they are used to. Sydney Agudah, a junior Health Education and Promotion major and a member of the UA Little Rock basketball team, stated that his experience at a PWI has been great.
“It could be improved with more clubs and events on campus, however I am enjoying myself,” he said.
No one truly knows what it’s like to be in other people’s positions and Agudah recognizes that.
“I feel like my peers have a general concept of what it means to be black, but not black at a PWI,” he said. “Many people don’t know the difference between a PWI and a HBCU [Historically Black College or University]. They just see it as a college with no formal labeling.”
Sydney emphasized that he hasn’t experienced any form of racism or discrimination during his time at UA Little Rock.
“There have been racial incidents outside of campus with the Kappa Sigma Fraternity but not any directly towards me,” he said.
There was also an incident back in the spring of 2018 with the predominantly white fraternity and sorority, Pi Kappa Alpha and Chi Omega. The two organizations were briefly suspended for a video that showed the two groups singing a song and using racial slurs.
According to Agudah, UA Little Rock has done an excellent job in creating diverse classroom settings.
“In my classes, it would either be a mixture of different races or the majority being the same race,” he said. “Out of my three years here at UA Little Rock, I never had a class where I was the minority.”
Compared to white students, UA Little Rock fails to equally accommodate the needs of students of color. Agudah suggests that there needs to be more events on campus catered to African American students.
“I know it’s hard to get events for black students approved considering that there are a lot of individuals of the UA Little Rock community that look down on us,” he said.
Agudah mentions that the only time black students come together as a community is outside of campus where there are events such as parties. Not only does UA Little Rock fail to equally accommodate the needs of students of color, they also miss the mark when it comes to representation.
“We aren’t represented on campus well,” Agudah said. “UA Little Rock doesn’t help us much. Any events that we host, we have to do all the promoting so that others will attend. They make it difficult to do anything on campus. Not many of us do things unless it’s off campus.”
Jaelyn Tucker is a freshman, track athlete majoring in Mass Communication with an emphasis in radio and television production. For Tucker, coming to a predominantly white institution wasn’t an extreme cultural shock to her.
“I grew up in a mostly white town and went to school with mostly white kids,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t know the difference between me and my white peers. It doesn’t bother me at all and I haven’t had any issues.”
Tucker mentions that her peers don’t understand what it’s like being labeled as a black individual.
“My peers don’t understand that being black comes with many negative labels and stereotypes,” she said. “Everyday I work to try to break them. That’s not me.”
Tucker admits to having experienced microaggression on campus.
“It was nothing extremely serious,” she said. “However, that’s what happens when you live with three white roommates.”
Tucker believes that UA Little Rock does a good job at providing equal opportunities for students of color. She also thinks that black students are represented well on campus.
“I went to a few black fraternity events on campus,” she said. “They made me feel really welcomed.”
Angelica Clark is a senior majoring in Management. She is also the President of the UA Little Rock NAACP collegiate chapter. She says her experience here at the university has been “okay.”
“It’s definitely different from an HBCU,” Clark said. “For example, the professors I had at Texas Southern University (an HBCU in Houston) were more considerate of my success. At UA Little Rock, the attitude is more like ‘it is what it is.’ I’ve had teachers carelessly grade my work and not give me any feedback on what I did wrong.”
Clark says that she has experienced micro-aggression from an advisor at UA Little Rock.
“When I transferred to UA Little Rock, I expressed to my advisor that I wanted to take 18 hours,” she said. “I was told that I couldn’t do it because UA Little Rock was not ‘easy like TSU.’”
Clark eventually did end up taking 18 hours anyway and says that it felt good when she proved her advisor wrong. She believes the students of color need to do more on campus, not UA Little Rock.
“The more we do on campus, the more awareness that can be brought so that we too can have an amazing college experience,” she said.
Clark has been working hard as the president for the NAACP so that it can be a good representation of black students on campus. She says that UA Little Rock does recognize black students, however they fail to acknowledge all shades.
“When UA Little Rock does recognize black students, they are all lighter shades,” she said. “They hinder the representation of dark skinned, black students. Black isn’t just one color. If you’re going to acknowledge one side of the spectrum, you need to consider the other side as well. We’re all black no matter the shade of our skin.”
Overall, UA Little Rock has some work to do when it comes to representation and equal commodities for their students of color. However, black students need to do their part as well. They need to advertise themselves more on campus to receive the representation they want. They can’t rely on UA Little Rock to do it for them. They haven’t done anything for them before. The black community needs to come together and take action into their own hands.