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Do Diversity Alliances Foster Division?
December 18, 2013

Though Deerfield is prominent for its integrated and diverse community, students at DA have recently been voicing feelings of exclusion and separation within the community due to student alliances on campus. Among the most well- known alliances on campus are the ASA (Asian Student Alliance), DBSA (Deerfield Academy Black Student Alliance), JSA (Jewish Student Alliance) and the LASA (Latin American Student Alliance).

It has become habitual for presidents of these alliances, when announcing meetings, to assure the community that all are welcome whether or not they identify themselves with the given religion or race. But many feel uncomfortable attending these meetings unless they do in fact identify themselves with the alliance.

Claire Petrus ’16 said, “They always say that others are included…but when you slap a name on it, like Black Student Alliance or Asian Student Alliance, it doesn’t feel very inclusive.” Petrus continued to explain the result of this sense of exclusion, saying, “If I went to one of those meetings, I would just feel awkward.”

On the other hand, rather than feeling unwelcome at meetings, other students expressed that they feel the alliances are creating separate groups among the student body—that the notion of an “alliance” feels disconnected from the community as a whole.

Caroline Wagner ’14 said of the alliances, “If they want to feel welcome and included, then categorizing themselves makes them separate from everyone else.”

Additionally, Riker Bixby ’15 added, “If I didn’t belong to the alliance, I wouldn’t feel the need to go, because I don’t think that they address the needs of the campus as a whole.”

Members of certain alliances on campus expressed understanding of the feelings from their fellow peers on campus while also expressing their hopes to break the divide.

ASA member Samantha Kuo said, “It does create division; people say ‘I can’t go to ASA cause I’m not Asian,’ and I hear that constantly.” Kuo then added, “I don’t think it should create division…Anyone can come— it’s cooler if people do!”

Furthermore, president of the DBSA Kayla Ali ’14 agreed with other students on campus that the alliances can create division, but emphasized the goal of the alliances. Ali began by saying, “It creates boundaries in the sense that people who are not within that specific race, or whatever the case may be, don’t feel welcome to these groups. So it separates everyone into their own groups.”

Ali then went on to explain the principal aim of the alliances, saying, “The purpose of the alliances is to educate people on different cultures and what not, so having them provides that entryway, but people aren’t really willing to take advantage of it.”

Though the alliances on campus have not quite figured out a way to weaken the divide created by their groups, different club members proposed solutions to fix this problem.

Ali suggested, “I think there should be more joint meetings. ASA, DBSA, and JSA could have an event, so it’s not specific to any particular culture.”

Similarly, Zahra Rawji ’14, member of the International Student Alliance suggested, “All the alliances should come together in one large cultural event to share with the school, so that the entire student body, faculty and staff can get immersed in and be exposed to the different cultures that our school embodies.”