To the community of UP that feels somehow unequal to the majority of students on campus:
My name is Autumn Clay. I am a junior biochemistry major and I am a first-generation college student, bisexual, Afro-American, Filipino woman.
I wanted to write you this letter to let you know you are one brave soul. As you may come to find out, you were lured here either by the free application process or the massive scholarships. For those of you who had not visited the campus prior to attending this school, the token colored people on the covers of their brochures and websites made you think this school was diverse and full of cultural insight. Well, now that your deposit is paid and you actually go here, you’ll quickly realize this school is nothing you expected.
I want you to know I felt and still feel the exact same way you did. I grew up in Long Beach, California – one of the most diverse city populations in the nation. I guess you can say I grew up privileged in the sense that I never encountered as many micro-aggressions and passively racist comments in my life back home than I have being at this university.
This university is profoundly Catholic and white. There will always be a time where you feel like you don’t belong. That slight tinge of bitterness at the vast amount of privileged white students blissfully unaware to your struggles and differences will never leave your gut. That feeling of running away because it’s always easier will linger in the back of your mind until the day you graduate.
However, I am not speaking on any of this to make you change your mind about attending UP. I am strictly speaking on this because I want these feelings to fuel your desires, passions and goals. If you are anything like me and want to see UP grow and become the university every minority deserves, then stay, speak out against the ideas and policies you don’t agree with and take on a role where you can advocate for others possibly too scared to voice their opinions.
The University of Portland needs students, staff, faculty and administration who are willing to stand up and advocate for the minorities and minority groups on campus. I have encountered so many beautiful souls that I know would have been able to impact change here if only the school’s population felt more inviting. It is intimidating to attend and stay at a school where you feel like you are walking on eggshells and every breath you take rattles mountains.
Believe me when I say this, it gets easier.
As cliché as it sounds, it truly does. I have grown so much during my attendance at UP. I found a community to embrace the unapologetic me and a neat little position that allows me to use my voice to dishevel a few stakeholders and bring their attention to what matters most. If I would have listened to that voice in the back of my head who told me I would have been happier at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU), I wouldn’t be stirring up oceans and causing storms of change for the future population of UP.
So, with all this being said, I ask you to advocate for the things you believe in, help bring change to UP and, most of all, be proud of who you are and where you come from. Because the truer you are to yourself, the happier you will be. Plus, you will end up finding some incredibly amazing people along the way who aren’t scared to advocate alongside you.
I can honestly say coming to UP was one of the best decisions I have ever made regarding my future, and I bet at the end of these four years, you’ll think so too.
Clay is a junior Biochemistry major at UP and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org