Emily Meyer and Emily Fornof
Intersectional Confessional: Freshmen review their first semesters at Tulane
December 6, 2017
This is the most recent in a new Intersections series: Intersectional Confessionals. To learn more about the series, read our Letter from the Intersections Editors.
Where they at though?
When I checked in as a freshman on Tulane’s campus, I was both excited and nervous for what was to welcome me. I had attended a high school that was very culturally diverse, but I wasn’t a stranger to being the only person of color at almost every competition, tournament or cross-country meet. But college was a different time, a different place — surely the difference in my skin tone could be buried under the weight of freshman anxiety?
At least I thought.
During freshman convocation, the administration introduced itself and boasted of the initiatives it had accomplished this year. One of its biggest achievements: the increase in diversity. Twenty-two percent of the Class of 2021 was students of color. I looked around the auditorium to find the 22 percent of students of color who were supposed to be in the room and could count them on my two hands.
As each student in the auditorium looked at the person sitting to their left and right, most of them saw people who looked exactly like them. Yet everywhere I turned, Tulane’s demographic accomplishment was praised. The diversity problem had been solved with the victorious 22 percent — but no one could find them.
My first week after convocation, I walked McAlister on my way to class every morning, searching for a similar face. There were none. I sat in a class with 80 students and not a single one was a student of color. I wondered why everyone was celebrating this increase in diversity when I was reliving the same narrative of students of color here who’d graduated years ago.
With the university constantly advertising its increase in diversity, it makes me feel that people forget that there is still work to be done.
And it makes me, a black woman, feel more isolated than before.
Too Much Sauce
When we arrived in August, many of us freshmen had expectations for what student life at Tulane would really be like. I expected Tulane to be a haven for anybody and everybody to be able to have fun whenever they want. With the label of Tulane being the No. 1 party school, how could a naive freshman like me NOT think that?
I was having such a great time at the beginning of this semester, until the moments that I would look around a party and realized no one looked like me. I was afraid that the fun would end, so I felt pressured to assimilate into a culture that I was never a part of.
In the process of doing that, I was starting to become a person that was different from the one that came into Tulane. While many students at Tulane get lost in the sauce for over-partying, I got lost in the sauce for losing my self.
Eventually I woke up from this illusion and realized that most of the party culture here at Tulane was never meant to include students of color like me. As a Latino from L.A., you can’t help but notice and feel disgust at white fraternity brothers that dress in a sombrero, poncho and mustache for Halloween or as a “Native American” for Thanksgiving.
The fact of the matter is that Tulane’s party culture is predominantly white and upper-class, which is not who I am. And it’s definitely not who I want to be. While I still love going out on weekend nights, and probably always will, I know now that I should never feel like I need to be someone I’m not. There’s a difference between loosening yourself and losing yourself.
Only at Tulane, Only in New Orleans
As a native to South Louisiana, taking the 90 minute drive from my home to Tulane was a culture shock that I was not expecting. I knew there’d be a lot of rich kids, a lot of kids from the North and, most noticeably, a lot of white kids, but I don’t think I was ready to feel so totally disconnected from the rich culture of New Orleans that I was looking forward to experiencing.
Becoming friends with New Orleans natives has helped me feel better connected. They have exposed me to amazing things like the local music scene and their home-cooked meals, and I’m grateful for these experiences. Still, I can’t help but think about all the rich, white, Northeasterners who post photos from The Quarter and from The Fly on Instagram with the caption “Only at Tulane, Only in New Orleans,” tricking everyone back home into believing that all there is to New Orleans is the partying and leisure.
The myth of constant leisure isn’t a complete lie. New Orleanians definitely know how to have a good time, but the ignorance I see regarding how much work went into creating this culture and how much work goes into making the culture function for the tourists and college kids everyday is unsettling.
New Orleans is a fun and happy place, but it is also, in many ways, a broken place. Tulane is the No. 1 school in the country for community service, and being situated in New Orleans, I expected much more awareness about the city’s issues to be raised on campus. But so many Tulane students are unaware of just how much help so many of these communities need.