MY EXPERIENCE WITH UNEQUAL ACCESS TO EDUCATION
Written by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez
Private white institutions, or as I like to call them to be more precise, white serving institutions aren’t built for many of us.
Before I began graduate school, I attended an HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) where the majority of the student body was Latinx, commuter, and a majority lived at home with mom and dad while attending college. Our college experience differed from many of the college experiences I watched on television, but I never thought much about how our similar context made that space manageable or even enjoyable enough for me to thrive within it.
I then began graduate school at a private elite research university that catered to white students with an overwhelming distinction. I received my first bad grade in college while attending this university, I received my first "D" on a paper. Throughout the document were red marks with remarks that stated I had a problem with grammar and syntax, and finally the closing comment stated that I needed to go to the writing center. I was on scholarship, and I had to maintain a decent GPA to keep my scholarship, which without I would not have been able to attend. Seeing this glaring red "D" shocked me to my core because I had graduated cum laude, from honors college, participated in about seven honors societies while in undergraduate and my major was ENGLISH LITERATURE! I was baffled that I had been marked sopoorly on this paper.
I then looked around my class, and realized that I had attended a state school while the majority of my peers had gone to private liberal arts colleges. I had also grown up in the "hood" where teachers tend to care less if at all, which is why segregation in our public schooling system affects so many students of color who live in low-income neighborhoods.
I had no knowledge of how to write the way that I was “supposed” to write compared to my peers with impressive pedigrees. I realized that I had previously been given great grades because compared to my peers in my past schools I was ahead. However, in competition with white privilege, NO AMOUNT OF GO-GETTER ATTITUDE WAS GOING TO COMPENSATE FOR WAGE DISPARITY, SEGREGATED PUBLIC EDUCATION, AND LOW INCOME HOUSING.
I swallowed my pride that day, and I requested an appointment at the writing center and submitted my paper. When I arrived, ready to take as many notes as possible and try to catch up to what my fourth grade English teacher lacked to teach me.
I was told, “We cannot help you with these errors because these are problems that English as a second-language students need help with, you’re better off going to the international students writing center.”
Without missing a beat, although I was not an international student, I requested an appointment there and was determined to make this work. When I arrived to the international students writing center they told me,
“You speak too much English and write as someone who is more familiar with English than the students we help here.”
My heart started racing and felt like it was about to come out of my chest. I felt alone and I felt betrayed by this institution that accepted me but its infrastructure was not built for people like me. I cried a lot that day, I cried for a few weeks. I tearily confided and shared my experience with the professor who had given me the low grade. She offered to do the editing with me one-on- one. However, that was a bandaid fix for the overall problem of 'separate and unequal' education infrastructures in our schooling system. I became very aware that people like me are not priorities.
When I write against white serving institutions it's because I lived through jarring experiences that made me believe that I was worth nothing, and I don't believe or wish any student should have similar experiences, especially students who are in school with a desire of creating a better life for themselves and their families.
Private white institutions, or as I like to call them to be more accurate, white serving institutions, aren’t built for most people of color. Until they realize and resolve this issue, I will continue to write against them.