By Deena Smith, Staff Writer

George Mason University is an institution that prides itself on having a largely diverse student body that respects and welcomes all walks of life and cultures. Although I respect this diverse label, it is quite a stretch. The minority groups are spread so thin and so few in number that most everyone in a minority group knows one another. Since the percentages are so small, they tend to stick together and not branch out into different racial groups.

Anyone can see this for themselves by walking through the Johnson Center during lunch time.

As a black student, I admit that most of my close friends are black, but I do have friends from a wide range of ethnicities and races.

I wondered — has being a black student at predominantly white institution had a large effect on my sense of “blackness”? After interviewing an eclectic group of African American Mason students, I have gained a large insight into the opinion of being black at Mason.

Students said that getting involved in organizations made the most difference in how welcome they felt at Mason.

“I immediately got involved with Mason Ambassadors and met many students,” said Melanie Durrett*. “I feel that as long as you get involved on campus, there is no reason that you shouldn’t feel welcomed.”

“[Move-in day] was a huge event, [when] the freshmen were moving on to campus,” said Dominique Carlson. “Everywhere I turned, people were introducing themselves — black and white — and that definitely helped me adjust to being away from home.”

However, some upperclassmen did not feel as welcomed when they first arrived at Mason. “The upperclassmen weren’t as friendly and welcoming [when I was a freshman] as the current upperclassmen are now,” said Ronnie Cullen*.

Contrarily, some freshmen still do not view the upperclassmen as the most welcoming group of students.

“I do not feel as if that many upperclassmen really care to get to know anyone outside of their cliques, although there are a few who took the time to speak and to know me as an individual,” said Catrina Pope*.

However, some organizations, such as Akoma Circle, a mentoring organization through the Peer Empowerment Program, have been established to help minority upperclassmen bond with freshmen students.

But when specifically asked about the welcoming of one’s own racial community, some students were not as pleased. “We all support each other, but the individual aspect needs work,” said Pope*. “Overall, I am happy with the picture of us all supporting each other, but there is definitely room for improvement.”

After spending at least a semester on campus and attending some of the few events that are geared specifically for the black community, students did begin to feel more welcomed into the black community than they were initially.

“After getting to know a lot of people, I do feel welcomed,” said Lisa Harris*. “I have been going to more events regarding the black community, just trying to get more involved.”

So does one have to attend events that are exclusive to the Black community in order to be fully welcomed?

This may be sending a mixed message to those incoming freshmen who applied to a diverse college but cannot seem to get an open invitation into their own racial community without showing exclusivity.