Academia is a cesspool of whiteness and privilege. This is what I’ve learned time and again during my time at West Virginia University. It has tried to drop kick me at every point of my academic career, from professors and classmates to dining halls and student union decor. I’ve wanted to give up, especially lately, but that means they win. Plus, how could I pass up on this such quality writing material?
WVU prides itself in its “diversity”. They’ll spout about it any chance they get. But it all feels so fake and forced that it’s borderline gaslighting. “They’re making an effort!” “See, they sent out an e-mail!”.
It’s not enough.
Let’s take a look at their latest “attempt”. I saw this image circulating around Twitter today:
Now, I can only speak to the two statements I can relate to the most: Latinx and International Students. The Latinx one particularly bothered me. It felt like they bent over backward trying to find a way to say “the border wall is not cool, but we don’t actually WANT to say it”. The wall centered message not only hegemonizes Latinidad to mean Mexican, but tries to appropriate a violent symbol into comfort, and fails.
The International Students statement feels similar, using “our borders” as reminders that we’re on THEIR land in THEIR country. That it is not ours and we are not welcome, we are but temporary guests despite them burning our own homes down. Which brings me to my next border-related point.
Earlier this week I received an e-mail from the Reed College of Media inviting people on a Marketing Club trip.
What caught my attention was placing Brunner and the pro-Trump, pro-wall, Superbowl 84 Lumber ad as the highlight of the trip. They called it “remarkable” and everything. If you’re not familiar with the ad, Latino Rebels wrote an excellent piece on it.
I was horrified. So I sent an email to the address provided. I explained the ad and its disservice to Latinx communities and urged WVU Marketing Club and Reed College of Media to denounce it, and the company and creators behind it. I emphasized that even as journalists and communicators, we cannot remain “neutral” when there is clearly one side in the wrong. This validates violence and hatred and destroys credibility and trust.
The reply was more infuriating. Starting with a defensive “First off” followed by an apology and a generic ‘I don’t condone Trump’. Immediately after that was a Merriam-Webster definition of “remarkable” to defend the word choice. Not only is pulling out the dictionary a lazy argument in perception, but it completely ignores connotation and denotation.
Then, the pièce de résistance:
The agency is an employer of multiple alumni, including our department chair as well. Although this can be perceived as a negative advertisement, they have served multiple other companies (such as Dicks Sporting Goods, DuckTape, Westinghouse, and many more). We have toured this company in the past few years before this advertisement was even published. It would be quite unprofessional as an organization to cancel out last minute due to their interactions with one of their clients. I hope you understand our decision to push forward with the trip.
Past good work doesn’t erase the damage of this one. I now understand that “professionalism” and decorum are more important than my humanity.
This little field trip is administration-sponsored violence. This is the type of violence I deal with every day. My university promoting pro-wall messages for the sake of networking and prestige.
So no, this isn’t #OneWVU.