The University of the South in Sewanee will offer an alternative Spanish/English bulletin at commencement this year, even though only 5 percent of the student body is Hispanic.
The bulletin is part of an effort at the private liberal arts school to promote “diversity, inclusion and cohesion,” according to a message from the provost’s office on the school website.
The elite university, founded in 1857 by the Episcopal Church, is located between Nashville and Chattanooga. The majority of the student body is white.
The Sewanee Purple student newspaper reported that graduating senior Nora Viñas led the effort to create the alternative bulletin and make Hispanic students “feel included, safe, and important” on campus.
“Following the presidential election, Viñas was left frustrated and scared,” the article said, quoting her as saying, “A blindfold came off, and I had to confront the Latino experience uniquely.”
As part of is diversity push, the school also this year made African-American journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me the orientation book for freshmen.
“The politically charged text provides an account of the realities of racism and inequality that African Americans face in the United States,” reported The Sewanee Purple. “This encouraged meaningful, relevant conversation amongst students and faculty at orientation following the Black Lives Matter movement and other campaigns for equality and social justice.”
In an opinion piece for Politico, conservative writer Rich Lowry said that while Coates is a gifted writer whose book gives a “powerful and true” account of slavery and the discrimination that followed, Coates portrays “a stunted version of America.” Lowry called the book “profoundly silly at times, and morally blinkered throughout.”
In the book, Coates says that “‘White America’ is a syndicate arrayed to protect its exclusive power to dominate and control our bodies.”
Coates also criticizes 9/11 responders, writing, “Black, white, or whatever, they were menaces of nature; they were the fire, the comet, the storm, which would – with no justification – shatter my body.”