Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Student Documentary Explores Marginalized Identities

Seattle University’s admission campaign #YouAreWelcomeHere boasts that there are over 865 students from over 60 countries around the world. However, demographics from the fall of 2016 show that nearly 56 percent of the undergraduate student body of Seattle U is white. Because of the racial makeup at the university, some students feel that they don’t necessarily belong or fit into campus culture.

Student Body President Pa Ousman Jobe, along with the help of students Shika Kalevor, Anab Nur and Matinn Miller, created “The Unnamed Project,” which is a 17-minute documentary that explores the shared experiences of historically marginalized groups at Seattle U.

Beginning in the summer of 2017, the team began accumulating stories of those willing to share their experiences on this campus. They named the documentary “The Unnamed Project” with the goal of being inclusive of groups that go unrecognized. Students, faculty and staff shared their stories in contribution to the project. The Unnamed Project hosted a viewing party on June 1 for those that wished to watch the entire full-length documentary.

“You can share your story at your own pace, at your own will, at your own time, but it is really exhausting if you constantly share your story with the hope that it is going to lead to some positive change, and nothing is happening,” Jobe said.

Many of the students that worked on the documentary and shared their experiences have told their stories on campus multiple times in multiple different ways. Whether it was through focus groups comfirming their experience, or faculty and administration asking about their frustrations, these students felt frustrated, ignored and burdened in constantly repeating the same story. For students who are going through similar experiences can feel validated hearing the narratives shared in the documentary.

“And the feeling that I have to speak, or I have to educate, or I have to share this experience for this person to understand what I’m saying or validate my experience, it is hard and it’s exhausting,” Jobe said. “But unfortunately, that is the kind of situation that we’re in as being people in predominantly white situations, we have to share our stories because our experiences get invalidated.”

Sociology professor Mark Cohan expressed his point of view in the documentary, in recognizing the Eurocentric style of teaching that he and many of his colleagues have been taught and that they use in classrooms. He believes listening to the voices of minoritized groups is key to rebuilding and restructuring the university so it can serve all students on campus, especially those who come from marginalized backgrounds.

“We didn’t have students of color at this university until 1948, I believe, and this is a university that’s been around since the late 1800s,” Cohan said. “This was not a place that was built for people of color or women, so we have to rebuild it. We have to redefine it. We have to redesign it. And that’s going to take a lot of work and that’s going to take some pain but the idea of recognizing that it needs to be done is just the first step.”

Although most of the filmmakers are graduating from Seattle U this month, they hope that The Unnamed Project is used in making concrete changes to better undergraduate students’ experiences on campus. They also hope that students can benefit from their stories and know that they’re not alone. Soon, the documentary will be on YouTube for whoever that wants to see it.

“I think that the overarching theme that—over these past four years—that I’ve noticed is that people of color, we vent to each other about what we go through day-to-day. And that’s because that’s when we feel safe is when we’re with each other,” senior nursing major Shika Kalevor said, who helped create the documentary. “The fact that we’re sharing our stories with each other doesn’t let them be heard widespread, so I feel like creating something on video, something concrete, is something for people to go to, to feel validated.”

Rania may be reached at
[email protected]

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