Dissecting elitism at FAMU

FAMU exchange student Sabit Wagad. Photo by Kaylah Burns

Conversations have circulated recently both on social media and on-campus of the elitism that takes place among HBCU students.

Students have been discussing the negative effects of elitism on campus and how it affects everybody whether they participate in it or not. It is how students relate to each other based on appearances and status.

The main effect that has been discussed, however, is the pressure that it puts on the individual. Students have felt the need to spend beyond their means to give the appearance of having a higher status.

Exchange student Sabit Wagad, from Minnesota, said that he felt there was a social hierarchy among the student body when he arrived at FAMU.

“It seemed like a popularity contest straight away,” Wagad said. “Like the more people that know you, the better your status is.”

Wagad went on to say that the elitist mentality on campus put pressure on him to appear a certain way.

“It seems like everyone here is trying to look better than the next person,” Wagad said. “That made me second guess myself and how I look. I definitely felt the pressure to look a certain way.”

First-year criminology major Tiara Watkins felt similarly to Wagad in how she related to her peers. Watkins said she especially felt the pressure attending homecoming for the first time this semester.

“All I’ve ever seen at HBCU homecomings was how good everybody looked,” Watkins said. “It’s like everybody puts so much effort into appearances, and I have no choice but to do the most with my looks.”

This discussion has also taken place on Twitter regarding the elitism that students face on HBCU campuses. The topic specifically centered around the challenges Black students face when looking for comfort at an HBCU that they wouldn’t find at a PWI. Users took to social media to discuss their personal experiences on their campus.

In a thread on the comparison between the challenges for Black students at a PWI versus an HBCU, Twitter user @NicEIDD said how they personally felt when comparing themselves to their peers.

“I go to an hbcu and somehow, I always feel inadequate from the way I dress to what I do,” @NicEIDD said.

Some people in the thread had a different experience at their HBCU. They claimed to have not noticed any kind of elitism at all. However, for most of the discussion, people agreed that elitism has done more bad than good for HBCU students.