Misinformed POSSE attack highlights larger on-campus issue

BY ALANNA KOEHLER ’15
Campus Life Editor

I knew the article was coming before the general College community did. While working in The College Reporter office I caught wind of the buzz about the controversial article before I even read the piece, and immediately I felt like I had been punched in the gut. Kyle Lawrence’s article entitled “Posse Foundation has more drawbacks than benefits” in last week’s issue of The College Reporter made me physically sick to my stomach.

I am not a member of POSSE. I do not have close friends who are members of POSSE. I have no ties to the program at all, but this display of ignorance about the foundation, an organization in which I happen to be a firm believer, cannot go unchallenged or unnoticed.

I do not know much about the logistics of POSSE and admit Lawrence is certainly entitled to his opinion that the Foundation has its drawbacks. I am sure, like any program, it does. However, his argument is completely unfounded, rooted more in prejudice than in fact or reality, which is the aspect of his article with which I find the most fault.

The statistics the articles uses about the program, one that aims to provide select groups of public high school students, including first-generation college students, minorities, underprivileged students, and others who, for whatever reason, may not be able to easily attend college, with full tuition scholarships to participating institutions, are completely irrelevant.

The article asserts POSSE students have lower average SAT scores than the average scores submitted by F&M students. Not only are the percentages he cites incompatible, but he also claims the scores of POSSE students are not F&M caliber when, the last time I checked, F&M is SAT optional.

I feel I can appropriately say there are non-POSSE F&M students walking around this campus with SAT scores that are “not in the F&M academic range,”according to the article, or well below the average score of 1330. Are these students being called out in a thoughtless editorial? No. Because, by not requiring SAT scores, F&M has attempted to establish itself as an institution that realizes a student is more than his or her standardized test scores.

But, if one wants to compare apples to oranges, how about these statistics: The graduation rate for POSSE students is 90 percent, while the 6-year graduation rate for F&M students is only 85 percent. This comparison is equally as ridiculous, but who looks better now?

Statistics aside, the overall tone of the article makes me gag. It seems as if the article is claiming POSSE students, students of a race other than white, and students who cannot afford full tuition do not belong here. They are not welcome here.

I myself am a financial aid student, and I find no shame in that fact. Like many of the POSSE students (though probably not to the same extent) I have worked incredibly hard to get where I am today. I know what it’s like to have to work for things other people are simply handed, and now, thanks to this revelation that students from “comparatively dismal public high schools” are “inadequate,” I know what it’s like to have people look down on me for all my efforts.

While Lawrence’s article was not as much an attack at me or at students in my situation as it was an attack directed toward POSSE students, I find it to be derogatory of anyone who does not fit his described, elitist ideal. It begs the questions: Would F&M be better off a completely homogenous institution of white, narrow-minded, privileged adolescents with fat wallets and intolerant worldviews? Is this a popular view on campus?

The article essentially claimed throwing “diverse” students on to campuses like F&M is detrimental to the students’ social growth as they will always be alienated from the rest of the campus population. He is right if these students are treated with the same attitude portrayed in his article, if students who are more privileged keep putting them down. And those “diverse” students are indeed treated this way, at least how I see it. Unfortunately, on this campus the socioeconomic gap is almost tangible, and there is a visible “us against them” mentality, whether intentional or not.

Until all people, not just F&M students, can get past this prejudice against those unlike themselves and start accepting those who are different, educational inequity will never improve and students who are part of organizations like POSSE or who have worked their way to scholarships will always face even more unnecessary challenges.

And for what? What good did Lawrence’s article do? Sure, it created an uproar; it got people talking. But it did not change anything. It didn’t make anyone’s life any easier, enlighten an audience, improve a cause, or provide comic relief. No one is laughing. The article simply belittled people with a poorly constructed, ignorant argument. My main question is: why? Are some students that threatened by students on scholarships for merit, by students who have to work their way to the top?

My challenge now for all the POSSE kids, the minorities, the financial aid students: give them hell. Show all those people who have doubted you, all those people who have told you that you couldn’t have or didn’t deserve something, just exactly what the “underprivileged” can do with a chance. Show them why you deserve to be here just as much, if not more, than they do. Prove to them you are responsible for your own success.

Questions? Email Alanna at akoehler@fandm.edu.

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