Scripps College students participated in a BeHeard forum Oct. 28 about the effects of marginalizing remarks made during classroom discussions. The forum, entitled “Marginalization in the Classroom,” was part of a weekly series held by Scripps Associated Students (SAS).
SAS President Alexandra Frumkin SC ’16 said that the event was held in part as a response to “insensitive comments” made in a Core I class discussion but emphasized that such comments are “an ongoing problem in all classrooms,” not an isolated occurrence.
The Scripps Core Curriculum, a three-course sequence, often addresses controversial subject matter. Some class titles include “Plantation Empires: Gender, Labor, Race and the Construction of “Difference”; “Eat the Rich! Capitalism and Work” and “Histories of the Present: Violence.” According to various first-years attending the forum, the discussion of these topics during Core I have the potential to become emotionally charged, leading to some students feeling as though their voices or opinions have not been properly heard or acknowledged.
In addition, Core is the first experience that many students have with a discussion-based college class.
Alana Gonzales SC ’18 said that Core did not facilitate open discussion. She explained that people often made unsubstantiated generalizations, which “can cause frustration” and inhibit discussion.
Students at the forum said that students with limited experience participating in academic discussions are prone to saying insensitive or marginalizing things.
Throughout the forum, students stressed the idea that professors should play a role in leading these discussions in a positive direction to counterbalance the inexperience of their students. SAS Faculty-Staff Relations Chair Anna Cechony SC ’17 advocated for education of the faculty members leading Core discussions as a key part of addressing the problem of marginalization in the classroom.
“Making sure that we’re giving the faculty members the tools to handle these difficult dialogues is one of the most important things the student body can be advocating for,” Cechony said.
One of the ways in which Core I faculty members have been empowered to take action in the classroom, according to Cechony, was a diversity training they attended over the summer. These types of events are meant to help faculty members turn an emotionally charged classroom discussion into a positive learning opportunity.
Core is not the only academic space in which students reported feeling marginalized. Throughout the forum, students expressed that classroom marginalization is a pervasive problem. Many students shared experiences of feeling scared and angry when other students put forth opinions on race or socioeconomic class that conflicted with their own experience as an ethnic minority or as a member of a lower socioeconomic class.
The forum ended with an entreaty to all participants to continue to think about the issues they discussed, underscoring that there is no easy way to completely prevent marginalizing remarks within the classroom.