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Have you ever felt invisible? Like maybe it’s possible that people literally do not hear or see you? Have you ever begun to wonder if you actually exist? I feel that way. It may seem like an over reaction to question your existence. You might be thinking, “of course you aren’t invisible, I’m looking at you right now!” But invisibility doesn’t happen all at once. You don’t just disappear. You slowly fade away.

This is the story of one girl’s fading. It happens at SPU. It starts out with little things. I would say things in class and get literally no reaction. A man would say the same thing within five minutes and you’d think he had solved world hunger because the students and professor would come alive at the thought. No big deal right? Maybe they just needed a few minutes to think about the concept. Maybe I hadn’t articulated it well. Maybe they didn’t hear me. Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe.

It kept happening: different classes, different professors and different students. Consistently. Persistently. Maybe can only take you so far. Eventually you realize that the commonality is you. You aren’t seen. You aren’t enough. Your voice and ideas and body don’t matter. This is when you begin to fade.

To fight against being unheard you raise your voice. To fight invisibility you try to make yourself noticeable. If my constructive thoughts were not received perhaps argumentative ones would be. I began weaving intentionally controversial statements into my class participation. Hoping that someone would argue with me. Hoping that someone would notice. Nothing. Crickets. So I began making statements that were intentionally incorrect, hoping that the professor would at least interact with me. Nine times out of ten, they did not engage me at all. So I faded.

I attended a class that was team-taught and attend a lecture in that course that was blatantly sexist. Apparently women are overly sexed, problematic for men and deeply unprofessional unless they actively work to neutralize their femininity. I took my concerns about this lecture to the co-teacher and was told that there was something wrong with me if I could not see past the “poor delivery” to the educational truth I am supposed to have learned from it. I was told that I should be the bigger person, even though the reality is the professors have more power, education, experience and should be more mature (at least chronologically if not emotionally and spiritually).

I felt like I was not the valued member of the community. I felt like I was being framed as “the problem.” I felt like I was being told to shut up and fade away. I felt invisible. I was both unseen and made to bear the responsibility for being unseen.

If you are treated as “less than” long enough, you begin to believe it. I’ve been called a bitch more often since coming to campus than in the rest of my life combined. I’ve even begun to refer to myself that way. I’ve begun to live into my invisibility. I’ve gained weight as a way of making myself even less visible. I’ve stopped trying in class because true engagement would require vulnerability. I don’t  have the energy for that anymore. I came to SPU to find my voice but I seem to have lost it. I’ve lost myself. I am invisible. 

As a staff member at SPU I am incredibly proud of the students on this campus and am encouraged by the movement that has occurred over the past few weeks. I carry a weight everyday knowing that students I love so dearly and entrusted SPU to take care of in recruiting them to this institution are experiencing such pain. These are the steps necessary to change that. My only disagreement with this petition is that the staff needs are left out-perhaps student believe the term “faculty” includes staff but I would ask that anywhere “faculty” are labeled the words “and staff” be added. Staff have significant interaction with students and should also experience cultural competency/sensitivity training. In addition, staff of color on campus also need anonymous reporting for what they experience. Thank you for your courage! I support you and will continue to pray for this special place.

Nicole K

As a graduate of SPU (and current graduate student), I loved my time living on campus and being a part of a unique college community like the one at SPU. My time at SPU was filled with late night adventures, roomies, raids, and mischief of many kinds. I met some of my best friends at SPU, and some of the best people I know. But, my time at SPU was also filled with what often felt like a spotlight following me around because of the color of my skin. Different people, at various times during my 4yrs at SPU, assumed that the color of my skin meant that I must fit a certain expectation (one that I have never fit.) There was this assumption made about my story based solely on my appearance. 90% of the time these assumptions came from other minority students or faculty wanting to make me feel included. Unfortunately, this often had a reverse impact and made me withdraw from the conversation because I felt like I was missing some necessary experience or there was a gap in my story. Diversity is absolutely important, it is something that should be celebrated along with the new perspectives and ideas that it naturally invites. But, it is also important that we remember that diversity does not equate to a single experience. Diversity can mean a lot of different things and look a million different ways. Remember to listen to stories and experience, not just what you see when you look at someone.