ALINA PANEK, Editor-in-Chief— When I read Weinberg’s announcement about the end of the Posse Foundation partnership, it felt like a gut punch. The email reassured me that my scholarship was still intact and will continue for underclassmen, but did nothing to ease my roaring anxieties that I had quieted from my first year. “Do you actually belong here?” the same thought would emerge and roll around in my head when I got a less than satisfying grade, or calculated my college costs to be higher than my family and I expected.
As a first-generation college student, Denison felt like I had stepped into an alternate universe compared to my small life in urban Chicago. There were many difficulties. Some challenges I was prepared for, like homesickness and learning how to use the dryer after a lifetime of hanging my clothes on a line. Others, like learning how to eat a healthy, balanced diet when I had ready made food all times of the day (p.s. Nest pizza, I miss you dearly) or how to comfort a friend who had learned about a devastating loss, came with time.
I always had a friend from the Posse community to reassure me that I could tackle any of college’s obstacles. Posse scholars seemed to be around me wherever I went, creating a sense of pride and hope for fulfillment.
Before I even officially started my first year, Gabriele Bieliauskaite ‘18 spent the day with me when I was a prospective student. Janyce Caraballo ‘17 gave me a warm hug during June Orientation, my first time I had taken a plane alone, and reassured me that I would be alright here. Madina Khudaynazar ‘19 was my first-year R.A. who heard all of my growing pains. I’m not sure if someone in Admissions and the first-year office knew, or if the universe put each of us together. Would they have reached out as quickly and warmly if I wasn’t on track to be Posse? I’m sure they would have but the connection definitely sustained our relationship in the beginning.
As I reread the email, I couldn’t help but hear a resounding “we don’t want people like you here anymore.” I think this is what hurts the most. I believe that after Posse ends, there won’t be that strong sense of student leadership and connection from marginalized students. I have found regardless of my situation, my fellow Posse scholars had my back even if we hadn’t spoken. There was always an upperclassmen scholar that I could look to and say if they could do it, I could too.
A strong community for people of color and other marginalized communities is invaluable. I understand that budget cuts need to be made and that creating resources for more students in need is amazing, but why take from a successful program and many students’ only reliable resource to try something new?
As a leadership scholarship, many of the “diverse” leaders that Denison honors is a Posse scholar. While Weinberg believes that ending the partnership is the best step for our college, I worry how Denison will continue to lead in their cherished diversity quotas if the administration has lost the faith of their current students and alumni.
Alina Panek ‘20 is a Communication major with a Narrative Journalism concentration from Chicago, IL.