I’m Morgane Richardson and I’m collecting the stories of women of color students and graduates from elite liberal-arts colleges in the United States. Since I’m asking for your stories, I would like to tell you a bit about myself, and what I hope to accomplish with this project.
I graduated from Middlebury College in the spring of 2008. At college I often found myself leading the march for change in issues pertaining to women of color. Working in positions ranging from three-term president of Women of Color, to being selected as a student member of the colleges Task Force on the Status of Women, my time was often divided between planning events, writing papers at 2 a.m. and making sure that I was available to many of the women of color who surrounded me.
While I was passionate about my work for women’s issues, I was saddened by the stories of depression and anxiety faced by women of color at elite liberal-arts colleges because of a lack of support. I was further angered by the lack of action taken on the part of the administration.
By my senior year I fully understood the statement I had heard repeated by my classmates: The college knows how to recruit us (minorities) into their prestigious institutions but they have no idea what to do with us once we get here. Although women of color make up an increasing percent of the academic world, our academic institutions are slow to acknowledge the needs of this growing female population. It’s as if they have invited us to their venue, even invited us to speak, but neglected to provide a microphone so we can be heard.
As a graduate, I believe I have a different type of power in the push to change the system; as an alumna, I can apply pressure on schools to change their policies and procedures.
When I first started research for this project I naturally went to the Middlebury website to find the report on the Status of Women that I worked on in 2008. I was outraged to find that the report was only available to current students. Once again I asked myself, Where have the voices of our women gone? Why shouldn’t prospective students, alumni, and the public be able to see what women are saying about their lives in the elite academic institutions?*
And so, this is my mission: I want to know what it is like to be a woman of color in today’s top liberal-arts institutions. I want to give the microphone to the women of color who are in college now.
I plan to compile these stories and generate areas of action to better assist women of color succeed at elite liberal-arts colleges. I plan on distributing this work to college administrators as well making it available to the general public so that we might use these stories to better assist our institutions in adjusting to the needs of their students. I invite you to share your stories, and I will promise to make your voices heard.
Morgane Veronique Richardson
*Update: Since the founding Refuse The Silence, Middlebury College has made the Task Force of The Status of Women available on their website. Congratulations to Refuse The Silence, its staff and Middlebury College for listening to our requests! Report of the Task Force on the Status of Women at Middlebury College http://bit.ly/clOXRS