Coming into Vassar as a freshman I had no idea what concepts like heteornormativity, cultural appropriation, white privilege, and gender binary meant, as a suburban Ohio girl my school did not prepare me for anything close to what Vassar curriculum is like and I was thrown head first into real world issues that I had never dealt with before. If at any point they were brought up in class or in conversation my Vassar peers seemed to mutually understand and have the skills to discuss and dissect them, I however was flying blind. Not wanting to seem less informed or less intelligent I went along with the discussion or simply agreed or disagreed with the people making a point. It was obviously my own fault for not asking for a definition or explanation but in the bigger picture of things I felt like there was an assumption made that myself being a Vassar student had an basic understanding of certain concepts and definitions which I actually had no clue about.
As Vassar Students I think it is easy for us to assume that any given Vassar student has the same basic knowledge of social issues and awareness that most students do. And if anyone else was like me as a freshman it may seem like there is a level of awareness that in reality is unbalanced. And if that imbalance is left alone it grows larger and larger as the informed group becomes more informed and the uninformed, confused, and unaware group either are not confronted with the issues or remain silent. (There are students no doubt who actively work towards informing themselves and are not afraid of asking about concepts they don’t know but I don’t want to assume everyone is a certain way) By assuming that there is a level of knowledge are we simply widening the gap between the informed and uniformed?
As a senior I have taken my fair share of classes and had numerous discussions and feel that I am now more deeply informed about such issues and concepts and can hold my ground in a discussion but am I making the same assumptions about others that was made about me as a freshman. Do I assume that everyone coming into Vassar has some sort of knowledge and awareness of social issues? My answer is generally yes, I think that I do assume people have the level of knowledge but I acknowledge that getting to a particular level of awareness takes time and experience and for some it really is difficult to get there or even begin thinking about it. So how do we as a student body and administration work to make students more social aware.
I don’t believe the answer lies in an academic requirement but in more of a educational requirement. Lecturing people about social issues, race, gender, class, etc is not the answer but somehow working with student at a more individual level could be beneficial. I think Anna mentioned in class the idea of a Freshman orientation required activity be a social issues awareness workshop, and while that might be difficult to implement in the beginning having a basis for which to begin discussing these issues would be tremendously helpful. Even if it didn’t stick with or resonate with everyone there would be some basic level of knowledge given to all, at least I would have appreciated such education as a freshmen going into Vassar classes. We are a long way from a solution but assuming people have the knowledge to communicate and engage in a Vassar situation is not the way to begin conversations either.