BUSINESS

My perception of “Ole Miss”

Justavian Tillman

Justavian Tillman

By Justavian Tillman

“Don’t go up there to that white school because you’re not welcomed,” said a deacon at my church.

Making the decision to attend the University of Mississippi came with much backlash from friends, family and even church members. Of course, I started regretting the decision immediately. However, I still had hope that I would enjoy my time at Ole Miss.

Growing up, I was always taught that Ole Miss was not the school for African Americans, but I had to figure it out for myself.

At the beginning of freshman year, I had the privilege of moving into one of the newest residence halls on campus. I was so excited to meet my roommate and the floor mates.

Coming from a small town, I was not accustomed to meeting so many people at once. Most of the guys on my floor seemed welcoming, but there were a few who had reservations before holding a conversation.

I made many friends during Welcome Week. Although I knew my way around campus, I still longed for the acceptance of all my peers. I quickly realized that everyone is not on the same maturity level, and that caused conflict during my underclassmen years.

When I came to Ole Miss, I really did not see color at all. I was able to socialize and hang out with friends with different racial identities and backgrounds. However, once arriving at this institution, I became very reluctant to make friends of the opposite race unless they showed interest in a friendship first. I know that was very simple-minded on my behalf, and I highly regret some of those decisions.

It wasn’t until this past semester when I felt that I belonged at the University of Mississippi. Campus involvement has led me to my future career and helped me keep my sanity at this institution.

Becoming involved in the University of Mississippi Gospel and Black Student Union has helped me find my place here. These organizations serve as a safe haven for minority students, such as myself, to feel welcome at a predominately white institution.

Both of these student organizations are two of the largest minority organizations on this campus. I had the privilege to serve as the president of the choir my junior year, and I am taking on the role of president of the Black Student Union this upcoming year.

Today, I still receive backlash from my mother because she believes I attend a school that is racist. However, I make her aware of this: When one individual or group discriminates against people of the opposite race or gender, it does not define this institution as a whole.

Unfortunately, this institution has a history that will never be forgotten, but I stand firm in believing that the administration of this university is striving to make it a place for everyone to excel.

Being an advocate for this school, gets hard when people do things to tarnish the name of the university.  I try recruit younger people, but the media and others often give them a bad impression.walk2

Although this university has its issues, I can say it has changed me for the better.

I have professional skills I don’t think I ever would have acquired anywhere else. The relationships I have gained here are everlasting, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to be a student at this institution.

Being here has helped me decide my future career. I plan to obtain my master’s degree in higher education and find a job working with diversity and first generation students.

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