Is Rose State not as accepting as we once thought?
RSC has no shortage of diversity. Wherever you go, there is someone who doesn’t look like anyone else.
And this is something to be proud of. Our campus caters to the everyman: tall, short, black, white, et cetera. We are the community college of choice, where people from all walks of life choose to attend because we are accepting, understanding and tolerant.
But there is a fine line to every acceptance, and there is always a person in charge of determining where the line begins, and where it ends.
It has recently come to our attention that RSC may not be as accepting and tolerant as we all once thought. Library Club President, and veteran student, Jillian Whitaker struck up a conversation recently that really made the gears start turning in our heads.
Whitaker, a former Miss Black Rose State, has an academic portfolio that could make John Kennedy look like a slacker. She maintains an above 3.5 GPA, various community outreach volunteerism and possessing the “go-getter” attitude needed for over-achieving, driven and strong women looking to make a mark on the world. Whitaker seems like the perfect candidate to represent the RSC community at any opportunity.
And she strives to do this, everyday. But, when it came time for the campus to decide who should be representatives on the cover of the 2011 Summer and Fall Schedule book, Whitaker was told she wasn’t appropriate for it.
“It was because I have purple hair,” Whitaker explained. “I was told that my purple hair would send the wrong image or message about [RSC].”
Whitaker was also told that her hair was “fun,” but not appropriate for the promotion. “I was asked if I could dye my hair black or a natural hair color in time for the photo shoot, which was the following day.”
“I feel discriminated against because I express myself through my hair,” Whitaker said. “My feelings were hurt because I love this school, I want to represent this school as a strong, successful student.”
The new booklet pictures three “RSC students,” who appear to be studying together: an older African-American male, a young white male and what appears to be a young white female, although, through research, she is actually of Hispanic decent.
This is what our administration believes is the perfect representation of our student body. And they are dead wrong.
Where are our military service people, who are sometimes unable to change before classes and show up in uniform? Where are the “metal-head” students who walk about with alternative fashions? Where are the students that, in the warmer Oklahoma months, wear shorts that say “Juicy” on the butt, or wear extremely low tops, letting more than just their education hang out?
Why aren’t these people, who we see everyday in our lectures, in the cafeteria and the halls, on the cover of any RSC publication?
They all have what society calls a normal, or natural, hair color. They are black, Hispanic, white, Asian, et cetera. Why are they not pictured on the cover?
What are our disabled students? Our continuing education students? What opportunities are they given to represent their beloved campus?
This isn’t an issue of who is better suited to grace our scheduling covers, our advertising billboards. This is an issue of discrimination; advertising discrimination.
Only those who are pretty, look normal, no defects or abnormalities need apply.
“Our ancestors won the battle of racial discrimination, but what of our battle for self expression,” Whitaker asks.
And thanks to Whitaker, the question now becomes, who is responsible for deeming whom is worthy of being the “typical RSC student”?
Is purple hair really a bad representation for our campus? The 40 and 50 year old employees of RSC, who’s generation looked down upon radical hair color, homosexuality and outspoken youth would say yes.
But the greatest population, the driving force of this campus, would say no.
This is a battle of individual perceptions. As human beings, we will all have our own opinions, and those opinions may not always match our neighbors.
But when a college’s slogan is “We Believe in You,” no one can help but to ask their selves, do you really RSC? Do you believe in us, or do you believe in what you want us to be?