Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.
I teach at two community colleges, and, therefore, have an interest in this timely book. If you haven’t heard about all the protests about racism on college campuses then you haven’t been watching any news. Congrats on having your head in sand.
Ross’ book is something that anyone associated with any college in any way should read; however, there are some problems with the book.
On the one hand, Ross’ book does shed light on the issues of racism on major college campuses, and that is something that should be addressed. It’s more than just a debate over admissions policies. There are documented instances of black students being asked if a white student can touch their hair, of liberal uses of the “n” word, of a host of micro-aggressions. Ross makes an excellent case of racism still existing on campuses and how little colleges, at least some colleges, do to deal with the issue. The reasons for this non-action seem to run from lack of knowledge to lack of care about the situation. Ross does a good job of analyzing how some racial incidents on campus are played out. The book, for instance, opens with a detailed analysis of the fraternity that made the news after chanting a racist song on a bus. Ross’ analysis is far more in depth, in part because of the book, but also it makes the reader realize how little the news actually really covers such things (for instance, the connection such groups have to the Confederate south).
But the story also showcases the book’s weak side. Too much of the book is focused on the racism in sororities and fraternities. Now, there are good reasons for this, and Ross, to his credit, makes these reasons clear. The primary is the connection that such organizations have to the running of the college as well as the status in the college – in some classes such groups basically control student governments (and boy, the history of some of these groups). Therefore, Ross’ focus does make sense, yet it also can be limiting. No doubt there will be some readers who will dismiss much of the racism described in the book as simply the fault of the Greek system. While the book does cover micro aggressions and other incidents, the predominance of examples always come back the organizations.
Another flaw is the focus on an only a select number of schools, and no community colleges are discussed, though state colleges are. Considering that a number of minorities attend community colleges, I would be curious to see if the experiences are similar.
Despite the emphasis on the Greek groups as well as the lack of community colleges, this book is still a must read for anyone connected to a college in anyway. You don’t believe me? Ask any minority student. I double dog dare you. There is also a frank discussion about the names of certain college buildings, a topic that is also recently in the news.
Thank you, Mr. Ross. As always, you have given me some food for thought. (On a side note, I brought up some of the issues addressed in this book in one of my classes. It was a pretty good discussion).