On Mar. 8, International Women’s Day, the Muhlenberg College Instagram, @muhlenbergcollege, posted a video attempting to highlight women on campus. Nearly all of the women featured speaking in the video were white. The Muhlenberg community responded with anger, frustration and disappointment at the lack of intersectional representation.
Students who participated in the video, such as Allison Mintz ‘23, shared “I definitely wouldn’t have contributed my video to this project if I knew it would turn out to be such a harmful misrepresentation of women at Muhlenberg.” Mintz also commented directly on the post, saying, “I am noticing every person who contributed is indeed white. Let’s work to make sure this account shows intersectionality and a true representation of our college!”
Eva Vaquera ‘23 commented “For a school that preaches their diversity initiatives, all I saw was white.” Adding in remarks to the Weekly, “Muhlenberg prides itself with its increasing diverse student population but does nothing to maintain that population.”
Britney Jara ‘23 commented, “There are many women of color and female identifying POC [people of color] on campus that have done incredible change and work on campus. We’re constantly saying that they deserve recognition and support for their hard work yet celebrating them through this video wasn’t an option/idea is very contradicting. Like everyone else said, please think about being more inclusive and actually representing everyone on campus. This is feeding into white privilege and racism and if there is a change to this post, please keep in mind that while representation matters we are also not looking for performative activism and that will also not solve this issue. As a woman of color that holds many leadership positions on campus, I’m very disappointed but sadly not surprised by this.”
Jara added in response to the Weekly, “If the school did ask women of color and women of diverse backgrounds and identities then we need to ask ourselves the question of why these women didn’t feel inclined/willing to participate. We need to change in order to create a safe and comfortable space where women can participate knowing the College will represent their authentic selves.”
A recurring issue brought up by students was the lack of notice given to affinity groups to contribute to the video.
Imany Zorrilla ‘23 commented on the post, “You reached out to affinity groups LAST NIGHT and could not wait a day for our response videos, don’t blame us for lack of submission. Do better.”
“You reached out to affinity groups LAST NIGHT and could not wait a day for our response videos, don’t blame us for lack of submission. Do better.”
“If we were actually informed that you guys were making a video I’m sure many of us would’ve been happy to be a part of it!” shared Dondrea Wynter ‘22. “Muhlenberg do better all around. You guys continuously prove how unsupportive you guys are in regards to people of color on your campus time and time again in all areas. Practice what you preach for once. If you wanna be about diversity then be about [it] and stop doing it for show, or whenever we have an issue.”
Zorrilla added, “They [Muhlenberg] commented on the post claiming they had ‘additional posts planned that better represent full diversity.’ Regardless of the slim chance they were waiting for our responses to make future posts, the original was sent out with no second thought. Faculty and students of color are never given proper recognition, it’s getting exhausting.”
The College offered a comment in an acknowledgement, stating “You are 100% correct about this video and the lack of representation. When the submissions for this video did not truly represent the campus community, we should have held off on the post. We are truly sorry for this and recognize our error.” The College Instagram goes on to apologize, and state that they will do better, saying, “We will work to make sure that we broaden the number of people who review posts of this nature to help ensure that it does not happen again.”
“We will work to make sure that we broaden the number of people who review posts of this nature to help ensure that it does not happen again.”
This comment was far from satisfactory for the student body. Gabriella Morales ‘22 responded to it, stating “1. Let’s not blame it on women of color for not submitting anything. 2. Maybe they would’ve been more inclined to participate if they actually felt like they were a part of the community 3. Who exactly did you ask because I know of plenty 4. When students express their discomfort with something, a comment should not be seen as a valid response. Do better.”
This is far from the first time that the College has been called out for problematic Instagram posts, with @muhl_sports being highlighted for posting a photo of athletes not correctly wearing their masks just weeks ago.
Mintz suggested, “With the College Instagram having unforgivable slip-up after slip-up, it might be in the institution’s best interest to hire a DEI [Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] associate for their emails and social media, instead of asking students of marginalized identities for their opinions without paying them.”
The student body’s frequent need to hold the College accountable following unacceptable actions has become exhausting for many.
As stated by Morales, Wynter, Zorrilla and others, the College needs to “do better.”