Separate Orientation Welcoming Black Freshmen Sparks Controversy at Virginia University

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Folks on the right are crying foul over a “Black Freshman Orientation” event at George Mason University. However, organizers insist the event is aimed at making Black students feel welcomed and better acclimated to the Virginia campus.

The annual event, held on August 25, was advertised as an opportunity for newcomers to learn more about “the Black community at Mason,” according to the Daily Mail. The event is hosted by Mason’s Black Student Alliance and invites freshmen who identify as “Black or are supporters of Black people.”

George Mason University
The university’s Black Student Alliance hosts the “Black Freshmen Orientation” every fall. (Image courtesy of Alexis Glenn / George Mason University)

Students are still required to attend the regular university orientation, however.

“The Black Freshman Orientation will offer ways to be involved at Mason not only with the Black organizations but also Mason as a whole,” a Welcome 2 Mason site about the event reads. “This event allows incoming students for an outlook on how the Black Community at Mason is like.”

The College Fix, a right-wing group that seeks to counter its perceived liberalization of college campuses, reports that a separate university website, GMU Campus Labs, pegs the orientation as a networking event.

“This year, the Black Student Alliance will be collaborating with other on campus organizations to make the experience even more valuable and enriching for all who attend,” GMU Campus Labs states. “This event is exclusively for the freshman class at George Mason University. At this event, the freshman class will be able to get the ins and outs of GMU, learn how to navigate the campus, as well as learn about the different resources and organizations available to them on campus,” it continues.

Despite its good intentions, many online critics have decried the event as a “re-invented ‘separate but equal'” space for Black students.

“So race-based segregation is now a good thing right? Asking for a friend,” Canadian biology professor Gad Saad tweeted. Saad is best known for his YouTube program in which his guests have included figures such as prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer.

“If you’re looking for an all-black experience, I can recommend about 101 places where you can get that,” another critic chimed in. “Stop this foolishness.”

One woman opined, “if ‘diversity is our strength’, why does George Mason University in Virginia have a separate orientation day for black freshmen?”

Michael Sandler, director of strategic communications at the university, told the Daily Mail that while the Black Student Alliance did host the event, ALL freshmen students were welcome to attend.

“The university also has over 300 student organizations that sponsor a variety of events throughout the year,” Sandler said, adding that the BSA was one of four organizations to hold a “welcome back” event. “Many student organizations hold welcome back activities as we get close to the beginning of the fall semester.”

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