A Freshman’s Experience with the CU 1000 “Community Dialogue” -Mary Grace Drwal

As a conservative girl born and raised in western New Jersey, I consider myself very experienced in the realm of liberal administrations and their push to indoctrinate students with their political agendas.  It was to no surprise of my own when I walked into the Rhodes Annex for the mandatory CU 1000 “Community Dialogue” session and was told that I was presently confined to a “safe space” where my “social identity” could not be judged by others, and vice versa.  I was even given a handout explaining what social identity is: a web comprising a core of personal attributes/characteristics/identity and outer points consisting of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, nationality, body type, economic status, ableness, and religion.  Throughout the session, I was forced to discuss with other people why my personal identity was important, how my experiences have shaped my identity, when I have felt discriminated against based on my identity, and why Clemson’s core values of honesty, integrity, and respect are important in encouraging diversity on campus.

The responses to this discussion, as one would imagine, were varied.  Some students participated for the sake of moving the session along, while others participated out of genuine concern and interest for the topic.  Some students just rolled their eyes and kept quiet.  Me?  Well, when I was asked to tell my discussion partner how I identified myself, I laughed a bit.  I simply found humor in the fact that the exercise was actually creating an environment whereby people were being asked to speak about things that segregate themselves from others.

Initially, as I really had no intent of being disrespectful to anyone who valued the discussion, I was ashamed of my lack of self-control.  I became even more ashamed when I once again laughed to myself as another student was asked about his identity, to which he responded that he was just an American white male.  But honestly, what did they want him to say?  What did they want me to say?  I’m a conservative American girl who was raised to be a compassionate Christian and who identifies as a straight female with a German, Polish, and Irish heritage.  Based on the tone of the session, I’m pretty sure that’s not the answer the group leaders were looking for.  In fact, I’m almost positive they might have been looking to hear stories about students being “marginalized” in American society.

To me, by focusing on breaking down our social identities, Clemson’s CU 1000 course is actually creating a divisive culture.  Instead of making us feel united as Clemson Tigers and proud Americans, they are forcing a dialogue emphasizing and placing value on what divides us, creating less of a playing field for students like me who really work hard to find similarities in people.  I’m not saying that we should completely ignore our differences but rather that we should embrace the fact that in spite of our differences and all the sacrifices our ancestors braved to get to the United States, we are all here today at Clemson University, looking forward to a bright, cooperative, undivided future.

So fellow Clemson University freshmen, don’t feel too ashamed if you find the “Community Dialogue” session a bit misguided.  In my opinion, focusing on what makes us different doesn’t particularly unite us. Yes, diversity is one of our country’s strengths, but only so long as we can all embrace the fact that we live in the greatest nation in the world, under God, indivisible.

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