College Play Provokes Student Response

Diversity Controversy

ASHLAND, Va. – An encore of a Randolph-Macon student-produced play, sparked commentary between faculty, students and administration on the issues of diversity related to the campus.

In January, “Shout It Out,” a play directed by guest professor Dale Shields, was first shown to the campus through the Black Studies Program. The play covered personal testimonies of students from different races, genders and sexual orientations. Response was positive and allowed students and faculty to gain knowledge of these students’ experiences.

Noticing the lack of attendance from administration members, the students were asked to put on the play for a second time in February.

“It was an idea of a college supporter who saw it and was so impressed with it,” said Professor Alphine Jefferson, head of the Black Studies Program. “She thought that members of the senior administration need to see it.”

According to Professor Jefferson, the play allowed students to voice the racial frustrations they had been feeling for a while. After the second showing, there was a student-conducted, talk-back session that led to many students expressing their concerns and experiences of discrimination on campus. This discussion caught the attention of administration members, particularly the president of the college, Robert Lindgren, who said he thought it was necessary to meet with one of the students who performed in the play.

Lindgren met with sophomore drama major Hope Ward. As one of the students who made her thoughts known about the diversity on this campus, she said that something needs to be done.

“Students of color are fed up with this,” Ward said. “The only way to get people to talk on this campus is if they are intimidated, which is very sad.”

Ward said the conversation with the president was somewhat negative because she thinks he had a hard time accepting that these issues were occurring on this campus. During the meeting, the two seemed to have strong ideologies that clashed. “He comes from a place where he believes if you work hard, you can make it,” said Ward. “(This) is real in a sense until you start adding the aspects of gender, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.” She said she strongly believes these concerns should be addressed and reach a goal of more diversity by applying a greater amount of student cultivation.

Monique Sample, coordinator of Student Life at Randolph-Macon, provides a few resources that students have access to when wanting to manage the discriminatory issues dealt with on a daily basis. She says she believes as part of the staff, promoting such avenues such as the Diversity Council needs to be improved.

“We need to work with our students from the beginning on diversity … with sensitivity and inclusion training,” Sample said. “We need to be proactive rather than reactive.”

The issue of diversity on a small campus such as Randolph-Macon may not be a common topic. “Shout It Out” provided students with the outlet to literally shout out these concerns to get the attention of their peers and their respective elders. As a result, the play might have resulted in discomfort or taboo subjects coming to the forefront.

“But offense and hurt is how you learn,” Ward said.