Inclusion or Division? Why We Should Re-Think Ethnic Themed Dorms

The analysis seems a bit one-sided. For one, the idea that ethnic theme houses strive “to ensure students have a comfortable transitional experience” is a mystified narrative. Though this may be true for a great number of residents, it totally neglects the fact that being a minority does not mean one is accustomed to diverse experiences. Several Black Ujamaa residents are being exposed to African and African American history, culture, and majority-minority spaces in a serious way for the first time in their lives. To suggest that their Blackness has already given them the necessary background such that the Twains of Stanford would be less of an impediment to their development is rooted in no serious thought.

Secondly, the argument seems to exaggerate the “reach,” for lack of a better word, of ethnic theme houses. Ujamaa, for instance, has around 80 residents, with 40 — more or less — identifying as African or African American. Stanford’s Black undergrad population as of Fall 2016 was roughly 422 students, meaning that in any given year, only about 10% of Black students at Stanford live in Ujamaa, and I’d be willing to guess the same is true for other houses. In other words, I mean to say that if integration has yet to be fully realized on campus, it is not because of a mere 40 Black students choosing to live in Ujamaa.

Finally, and this touches on the first point, there is this malformed view of integration that works its way into your article. That view of integration suggests that it may be best for minorities to branch out, i.e., for students of color to consider the Twains of campus. But shouldn’t true integration also encourage students not of color currently living in the Twains to branch out to ethnic theme houses and their associated spaces?

All food for thought.


P.S. I speak about Uj specifically because I’m part of the communtiy.

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