University announces “White Awake” safe space for white students
Update: After publication of this article, University of Maryland-College Park changed the name of the group to “Anti-Racism and Ally Building Group,” along with a shorter description, which reads, ”Do you want to improve your ability to relate to and connect with people different from yourself? Do you want to become a better ally? Members will support and share feedback with each other as they learn more about themselves and how they can fit into a diverse world.”
In a statement provided to Campus Reform on Friday, the university explained the name change: “Our Counseling Center acknowledges that we did not choose the right words in raising awareness about this research-based initiative, and how this group has been perceived is counter to the values of inclusiveness and diversity that we embody. Therefore, we are renaming the group to better reflect our intention and values.”
Original story: The University of Maryland at College Park announced a new diversity support group this week to create a “safe space” for white students to discuss their feelings about “interactions with racial and ethnic minorities.”
The support group, called “White Awake,” will help white students who may “sometimes feel uncomfortable and confused before, during, or after interactions with racial and ethnic minorities.”
“This group offers a safe space for White students to explore their experiences, questions, reactions, and feelings,” the description explains. “Members will support and share feedback with each other as they learn more about themselves and how they can fit into a diverse world.”
The description asks students if they want to “improve [their] ability to relate to and connect with people different from [themselves]” or if they want to become a better “ally.” The new group is now one of four in the university’s “Diversity Issues” program series.
The group is being led by Noah Collins, who works for the UMD Counseling Center, and will be held once a week. Collins specializes in group therapy and is interested “especially in the areas of racial and cultural awareness,” according to his faculty bio.
The safe space has been met with harsh criticism from students on social media.
“I am ashamed over the execution of white awake nor do I fully understand its clause. ‘How they can fit into a diverse world’? Why do they need to attend therapy sessions on how to be a decent human being in society?” a UMD student wrote on Twitter. “Why do they need to have these sessions to learn how to coexist?”
“Just like classes. You can’t take one class and feel like you have all understanding over a certain subject,” the student added. “It takes practice, it takes problems, it takes more than one course, so ‘White Awake’ has good intention but I am skeptical over the fairytale result.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Grace_Gotcha