Brown minority program faces new criticism



One month after Yale announced its summer cultural orientation program would begin accepting non-minority students this year, Brown University minority orientation program directors are under fire for failing to announce program changes allowing for the acceptance of non-minority students.

According to The Brown Daily Herald, directors of the three-day Third World Transitions Program decided to accept white students to the program last fall but failed to publicize the change. Non-minority students of the school’s Class of 2007 did not receive invitations to the program, but program director Karen McLaurin-Chesson told the Brown Daily Herald that white students would have been admitted if they had requested to attend.

McLaurin-Chesson declined to comment to the Yale Daily News.

While many students involved in the Minority Counseling Program and Third World Transitions Program, or TWTP, declined to comment on the program’s changes, some program coordinators said they were not aware of such changes.

Manisha Mazur, a minority peer counselor and senior at Brown, said although she was a counselor in the program last year, she did not know of any changes to the program. She said she thought it was important that Third World Transitions maintain a degree of exclusivity.

“I think it’s very important that TWTP remain a safe place for students of color,” Mazur said. “I do believe it’s very important for white students to participate in dialogue, but that doesn’t necessarily negate the need for students of color to have a space to build community.”

The changes in Brown’s program parallel changes in Yale’s Cultural Connections program.

Alexis Hoag ’04 attended Cultural Connections in her freshman year and has served as an aide and head ethnic counselor in the program. She said in an e-mail that the program helps minorities become acclimated to their new environment.

“Cultural Connections facilitates a strong bond cross-culturally among participants — both freshmen and upperclassmen,” Hoag said in the e-mail.

But the inclusive feeling Hoag said Cultural Connections provides to minorities may not be matched in non-minorities’ experience, another student said. Matthew Houk ’04, who is half-Native American and half-white and has been a counselor for Cultural Connections, said he sometimes felt out of place during the program.

“I look white,” Houk said. “The students of color would interact better when I wasn’t around. When I entered a room, people would get quieter and look at me funny.”

Hoag said in the e-mail that she thinks non-minorities who choose to attend programs like Cultural Connections and TWTP in the future will probably be students who are already assimilated with minorities.

“My assumption is that white students who come from ethnically diverse backgrounds will feel most comfortable attending,” she said. “Those [who] don’t will opt to participate in other pre-orientation programs.”

Mazur acknowledged that Brown’s minority program has been controversial in the past.

“TWTP has always been under scrutiny,” Mazur said. “It’s always been an issue of debate at Brown. The administration and the students are now entering into the dialogue about the future of TWTP.”

Hoag said in the e-mail that she was confident Brown President Ruth Simmons will address any complaints or concerns about program revisions.

According to TWTP’s Web site, the program is designed as “a forum primarily for students of color, by students of color.”

The site states that Brown prefers the term “Third World” over “minority” because of the connotations of inferiority contained in the latter. The literature lists students of Arab, Asian, Black, Latino, multiracial, and Native-American descent in its definition of “Third World.”

Calls placed to Brown’s spokesperson were not returned.

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