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The Kids Are All White

University of Maryland's counseling center is criticized for a flier advertising a support group for white students who want to learn about race.

September 14, 2018
 

The counseling center at University of Maryland, College Park sponsors a group called "White Awake" -- it's a weekly meet-up for white students who want to better understand race and ask questions to be better "allies" for minorities.

But a flier advertising the group is earning criticism for being tone-deaf and vague. "Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable and confused before, during or after interactions with racial and ethnic minorities?" the flier asks.

The counseling center has decided to discontinue the ad -- though it is not shutting down the group.

"We agree with the feedback that the flier was not clear enough in conveying the fact that the purpose of this group is to promote anti-racism and becoming a better ally," the counseling center said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed. "We didn't choose the right words for the flier, and we are going to incorporate the feedback we have received into a revision of it."

It's unclear how long the group has been around or how it began -- a university spokeswoman attempted to arrange an interview with counseling center officials but was not immediately successful. The flier said the group offers a "safe space for White students to explore their experiences, questions, reactions, and feelings."

"Members will support and share feedback with each other as they learn more about themselves and how they can fit into a diverse world," the flier reads.

The counseling center called race relations "an incredibly difficult, nuanced issue, and that's the reason we need to discuss it." The group aims to help white students become more "culturally competent, so they can better participate in creating a more inclusive environment at the University of Maryland," according to the statement. "This group is based on research and best practices, and we believe in it."

But as the flier and the purpose of the group spread around Twitter, backlash was swift: "This cannot be real" one student tweeted.

Another student, Alysa Conway, tweeted that she was "ashamed" by the execution of the group.

"Why do they need to attend therapy sessions on how to be a decent human being in society? Why do they need to have these sessions to learn how to coexist?" Conway wrote.

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