When African-American students could attend the University of Kentucky, which has more black students and is much less expensive, why would they choose Asbury instead, which is predominately white? Not surprisingly, they usually don’t.
Senior Cherice Roddy said she didn’t know too many African-American students at Asbury who decided to attend without any of factors affecting their decision, such as scholarship. “A lot of them knew people who went to Asbury, which is why they came,” she said. “I don’t think there’s really a draw because I would never have considered Asbury unless someone had told me.” Roddy added that she came to Asbury because her campus pastor encouraged her to look into it.
However, Asbury has begun bringing in more black students through incentives, one of which is scholarship. African-American students can apply for the Harry Hosier scholarship, which covers 70 percent of their tuition. Like any other scholarship, there are certain requirements, such as U.S. citizenship and a minimum grade point average of 3.0 GPA. Their academic records, test scores, class rank, extracurricular activities and leadership ability are also taken into consideration. Two incoming students to Asbury receive the Hosier scholarship each year.
Sophomore Julia Chin decided to attend Asbury because of a phone call she received one day telling her about the Harry Hosier, which shows that these minority scholarships are effective in bringing in minority students. “If they hadn’t called me and told me that, I probably wouldn’t have [come to Asbury],” she said.
Esther Jadhav, director of intercultural programs, chimed in on the importance of minority scholarships. “The scholarship is an opportunity for students who may not have had an opportunity otherwise,” Jadhav said. She added that minority scholarships are no different than athletic, music or academic scholarships, in her opinion. She added that there are so many scholarships for white students –– although they aren’t called that –– that it makes sense to have scholarships for minorities, too.
According to Ciara LeRoy, a 2011 Asbury alumna who now assists Jadhav in the intercultural office, “A lot goes into getting a minority scholarship. It’s not just based on the color of your skin. I had to go through a long interview process, I had to be an exemplary student, I had to write essays and references. A lot went into it, so they didn’t just pluck me out, like, ‘Oh, you’re black, so we’re going to give you all of this money.’”
LeRoy continued, saying, “This campus should be a cross-section of what America looks like, what the world looks like. So I think by offering minority scholarships, it brings in a really diverse set of people, and it allows students to interact with all kinds of people. It’s a more adequate reflection of the world you’re going to enter into after you graduate.”
"It’s kind of offensive when [other students] say that we don’t deserve the scholarships because we didn’t work hard enough,” Chin added. “They should also just look around their campus and realize that there’s not a lot of diversity at all. So why would you be putting down a scholarship that’s bringing in diversity when we don’t even have any to begin with? I would think that they should be happy that the school offers a chance to bring that in because that makes your school look better.”
In addition to the incentive of minority scholarships, Jadhav noted that Asbury’s majors could be a big draw for some African-American students, depending on their interests. Chin explained that she decided to come to Asbury because of the academics. “I’m a film major, so I really liked how the school had all of those opportunities, and it would be really cool to … go out into the film world and be able to have that education and utilize that,” she said. “It paves a way for your culture.”
And as a worship arts major, Roddy decided to transfer to Asbury from the University of Central Florida in Orlando because she wanted to pursue a more music-oriented major, which the Orlando campus of UCF didn’t offer.
Jadhav believed that another characteristic that African-American students can hope to find at Asbury is the community aspect. “We are a community that is hospitable and welcoming,” she said.
LeRoy agreed, saying, “I really liked the communal aspect of everything and … and the individual attention that you get when you’re here as opposed to a bigger university. And the fact that it was high quality education meets a really good spiritual life because that’s really important to me.”
However, actually coming to Asbury ended up being more of a culture shock than LeRoy initially thought. “I grew up in a mostly white neighborhood … so I didn’t really think I’d have an issue,” she said. “But once I got here, I went through this process of appreciating where I came from and appreciating my culture more just because I was a minority here.”
Roddy had a big shock when she came to Asbury, too. “I didn’t think it would be that much of a drastic change … but I didn’t realize that it was that bad until I got here,” she said. However, she said that she was treated well by all of the other students on campus. “It was cool –– everybody was nice, but you don’t really find too many people like you…. It was a little weird, but it was easier because everybody was really cool.”
Unfortunately, though, African-American students aren’t always treated with respect at Asbury. LeRoy said that she experienced little nagging comments from students and even professors on campus. “I think the problem that an African-American student has at a campus like Asbury is that, we’re in class, and some kind of racial issue comes up, [and] the professor looks to you as the one black person in the class to speak for the entire African-American race,” she said, adding that it wasn’t her place to speak for an entire group of people.
Although Roddy said that her professors have treated her well in class, she believed that there is not a lot of sensitivity toward minority students in general. “The cultural differences … seeking to understand the differences there and the perspectives … I don’t think it’s really considered much in educating students.”
LeRoy also explained that, to no fault of their own, white students often said ignorant things to the African-American students because they hadn’t interacted with other cultures before. “They made comments that weren’t appropriate about the smallest things, like our hair texture or what we like to eat,” she said, adding that one of her friends from her freshman year was so affected by these comments that she decided to transfer schools.
Chin added that ignorance is a big factor to these small, offensive comments. She said that she has experienced this small form of racism on campus, as well. “They’ll always say, ‘Oh, you’re the whitest black chick I’ve ever met,’ and that one just bothers me so much,” Chin said. “I know that they probably don’t mean in a bad way, but when they say that, it’s like, well is my culture not good enough?”
Chin will be an ambassador for the Office of Admissions this upcoming school year, which is the first time they have hired minority students to be ambassadors. Chin is especially passionate about bringing in African-American students because she had a difficult transition herself. “If you reach out and open yourself up to it, you can find out that you can make differences on campus and teach people new things that they can broaden their horizons as well,” she said.
However, Asbury has made strides to make African-American students on campus comfortable. The office of intercultural programs in particular has helped by founding the club Beta Sigma Alpha, which stands for the Black Student Alliance. This club provides students with “opportunities for fellowship and interaction,” according to Jadhav. The club meets once a month for some sort of activity.
LeRoy was approached by Jadhav while she was a student at Asbury and was asked to start a club for African-Americans. “There weren’t really a lot of us,” LeRoy explained. “It was really kind of organic, grassroots thing, so it wasn’t super organized…. I was really committed to it because I had seen the consequences of not having something like this on campus and seeing my friend leave and seeing other students struggle.”
Roddy is this year’s Beta Sigma Alpha president, along with the other cabinet members: Sean Williams, the vice president, Quentin Carter, the publicist, and Julia Chin, the secretary. Roddy was a transfer student, and she joined the club but saw a need within the African-American students on campus and wanted to get them involved with BSA (Beta Sigma Alpha). About 10 students consistently come to the events.
Thankfully, Asbury’s diversity is steadily growing. Jadhav said that the school is bringing in more black students each year, which has occurred through the intentionality of the institution. She explained that Asbury wishes “to grow in cultural competency; it desires to have students that come from these different ethnic backgrounds.”
LeRoy agreed, saying, “I have noticed a great number of African-American students since I’ve come back here to work…. When I was a student here, I could count the number of African-Americans in my class on one hand — probably half of one hand.” These comments are encouraging, but there is always more that could be done.
Roddy said that getting African-American students more involved on campus would be helpful. “I think having more involvement from the African-American students on campus in leadership positions [would be beneficial] because … you don’t see too many African-Americans who are really involved. I don’t know if that’s because of the individuals or if it’s because they don’t have anyone reaching out to them to say, ‘Hey, you should try this.’”
“Asbury could pour tons of resources into our office, but if students and faculty aren’t willing to meet that with a willingness to learn and a willingness to interact, then it’s not going to work,” LeRoy said. “Everyone has to work together to want to learn about different cultures and want to relate to people –– instead of making assumptions or operating off of stereotypes.”