By Anusha Khanal
As we constantly grapple with inclusivity and making this campus a space for everyone, tokenism is another element of which we have barely scratched the surface. Voices Across the Borders, on Feb. 24, hosted a conversation on the topic of tokenism, specifically in the context of Colorado College.
The event, attended by about 25 people, was a space where students, faculty and staff could voice their opinions and emotions surrounding not only their experience on campus but also their experiences of tokenization at CC. Further, some international students themselves admitted that they have played a role in and encouraged furthering their own tokenization.
Although tokenism is defined as acts of diversity without inclusion, it takes a variety of forms in everyday life. Some of the examples discussed in the conversation included the fact that international students on campus have few spaces to represent themselves or to be heard.
“Inter-cultural understanding” has mostly taken a performative role on campus, in the form of food, dance, and celebrations. However, international students feel like they have more to share than merely their food from home. International students on this campus come with their own histories and positionalities, but students have had to represent themselves in the few terms that are laid out for them by dominant discourses that simplify their identities.
Additionally, the conversation touched upon classroom environments in which students have felt that being an “international” carries with it the added responsibility of filling in the cultural slot. In other instances, the class has undervalued their perspectives since they are outside of the U.S. worldview. An important dynamic was highlighted in the conversation that students experience tokenization in differing instances.
This poses a difficult question: how do we create a space where everyone feels truly welcome? Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Arabic Ammar Naji observed that “there are many groups on campus, and although we are a small community, there is a rift between the different groups.” He encouraged students, staff, and faculty to work towards creating platforms where we can come together to recognize our multiplicities, in order to resist homogenizing ourselves and our representations.
Voices Across the Borders was initiated by Ramah Aleryan ’20 two years ago, as a safe space for international students on campus to share their opinions and feelings. These conversations have now expanded to the broader college community and are now overseen by the International Student Initiatives at the Butler Center.