One good thing about Richmond is the diversity. In the course of one day, I seldom go without hearing more than four or five different languages being spoken around me. Racial and socio-economic diversity is not as prominent as religious and personal diversity on campus, but on the whole, we are a pretty diverse group of students. I think Richmond uses that to market itself, in a way. But as diverse as we are, people who are similar to each other tend to stick together. The international students, the art students, the athletes - they all have one thing in common: they stick together. Different types of students don't interact as much as I'd like to see us interact. I think the lack of interaction helps put a wall up that prevents the feeling of community on campus, which we are seriously lacking. Most students at Richmond are from the east coast, either from Virginia itself or somewhere in the East. Of course, there are international students and plenty of students from all over the country, but I would say they only constitute half of the student body while the other half are from more local places. Political awareness on campus is much higher than some other campuses I've been to. The news (which is today dominated by the Presidential race) is continuously on tv at the dining hall. However, diversity in the political realm is lacking. Most students tend to be Democratic, liberal, or center- to left-wing. Either that, or the conservatives and Republicans feel so outnumbered they are afraid to identify themselves.
Richmond is definitely a predominantly "preppy" school, and everyone is usually very well dressed and put together. Coming here from a hippie town in Oregon was a small shock to my system last year, I'll admit - I certainly wasn't used to girls wearing sundresses to class and found it silly that they chose to teeter on heels while traversing the cobblestone hills on campus. I was also introduced to the phenomenon of Vera Bradley, (which has after many years finally trickled over to the West Coast, as I discovered over Winter Break) which no Richmond girl can be without and a vast array of which lines the shelves in our campus bookstore. The impression I have of the student body is predominantly white, Christian, and wealthy - yes, a little on the homogenous side. There is a significant population of international students, who are great people to hang out with, but there seems to be an unspoken segregation between the different cultural groups on campus, which isn't necessarily the fault of any one group. In terms of religion, the University has a Christian chapel and the students most active in their faith are Christian, but there is also a specific "Interfaith" room for the use of several different religious groups in their services, which have followings as well. Politically, I feel there is a good balance between liberal and conservative students, and that students are politically aware and involved - in a polite sort of way, and never through anything too demonstrative.
Religious groups like Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, the chaplaincy, etc. are undervalued. If you participate in them, you are not considered "cool" by the Greek half of campus. There are not many black people in the general fraternities and sororities. There is not much racial mixing. Students will dress up for class. Students will dress up all the time. It doesn't make sense. Why are you trying to be sexy in the library?? Honestly! People wear polos, button downs, Ralph Lauren and JCrew sweaters, headbands, you name it. Some newbie will come to class in pajamas and they will be shunned until they straighten their hair and put on some makeup for their 8:15 because what ungodly creature wouldn't. This is not a very politically active campus. If you had to divide the dining hall into groups it would work like so. The Right side has fraternities, sororities and the hopefuls of said groups. Since the big tables are over on this side, occasionally a club will take over a big table. The middle has jocks, internationals, jokers. The right side has arts and sciences students, people who have no one to sit with, visitors to campus. Exchange students just sit anywhere because they don't recognize boundaries. If you try to sit somewhere else with your group of friends then normal, they will likely get all confused.
I was talking to a friend one day as we were eating lunch and we started talking about the students here at Richmond. I asked him: "Do you think that Richmond is a very diverse campus?" She answered: "Well, everyone in my hall is actually from a different state. Not a single repeat. So yeah, I would say Richmond is a very diverse place" This is very true at Richmond. Because of it is a private school students come a variety of different states. However, There is an inherent problem in this way of thinking. Location alone does not determine diversity. While Richmond may have students from many different states, every student comes from almost identical socio-economic backgrounds. Whether they be from New York or New Jersey or Ohio, most of them come from well to do families, whom share similar upbringings and values. These similarities create a strong sense of conformity on the campus. I can tell you that after the first week at Richmond I stopped wearing solid color T-Shirts and sweatpants and went out and bought myself a few polos. If you are a minority it is even worse. You find yourself in a milky sea which everyone is painfully aware of. You may share the same socio-economic background as the majority of the students but your minority status will set you apart regardless.
Politically speaking, most of the campus seems pretty apathetic. If forced to choose, they would probably choose a moderate-to-conservative stance. Political students do exist here (I'm one of them), though it can be a frustrating climate for activists sometimes. The LGBT scene is scant. There's two gay bars in the city and they definitely have their regulars. There's more gay men on campus than there are lesbians, and all of the queer kids band together. The racial divide can be quite evident, and a few incidents that happened on campus during hte 07-08 school year proved how ignorant, and possibly hateful, some people can be. On Halloween, a student dressed in blackface; in the spring, someone hanged a black doll in the theatre department with the message, "Art is dead! Long live art!" These incidents were handled well by the administration; President Ayers issued statements explaining why these were offensive, since those who did it didn't seem to understand the history that follows those acts. The student body also pulled together; a new group called "UR Concerned: Spiders for a More Inclusive Campus" started and has been working towards creating awareness around the racial issues on our campus.
The down side of Richmond is the student body; it is very close-minded for the most part. I come from a very diverse high school which makes it hard for me to adjust here. Even though everyone is nice to your face I feel like they are fake and two-faced. This year there were two incidents of racial discrimination, but our school is trying very hard to prevent that in the future. Since it is a private school, lots of the students here are very wealthy, but there are many who receive great amounts of financial aid as well. Lots of guys here wear their polo shirts tucked into their multi-colored shorts which personally I think looks pretty gay, and the girls go crazy with wearing sundresses pretty much every single day. Most students come from Northern states such as New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, but there are plenty of people who come from all over the country. Politically the students here are surprisingly diverse there is probably an even amount of Republicans as well as Democrats. The school is trying to head in the direction of including more diveristy on campus. They want to break the stereotype of rich, close-minded white kids, so please if you don't fit that category come here and save me!
One thing that I've learned is that people at Richmond may appear to be judgmental, but actually they aren't for the most part. I would see a lot of kids dressing up in nice clothes to go to class, where as I would be in sweats and a tshirt, and I felt out of place and inferior. But after a few years I've realized that people dress how they want to dress, and no one else cares about it. It's not common to find black students at Richmond who are not athletes. This is somewhat bothersome because it has made UR a slightly racially sensitive campus. The general student is white, from the eastern seaboard, and upper-middle class. Because I fit this mold roughly 2 out of 3 it's hard for me to say that people who don't fit into this feel out of place. I have friends who do not fit into this at all, and they seem to be doing fine and it does not bother them that they are not the average student. It may be that they have always been in situations like this, and are experienced in handling them, so it's no big deal. However, some of my old friends who no longer go to Richmond were not able to merely mold into Richmond because of these differences. I think it's a case by case situation.
Richmond is not a very diverse campus and that is probably my biggest complaint about the school. If you look around campus, it is pretty white and that frustrates me. I also think that a lot of issues though discussed in the classroom, are not out in the open on campus. I know that LGBT students have a hard time here because there is a really small support network for them. On the same note, all students here interact. I have friends in just about every social group on campus and I feel like those groups are pretty accepting. In the dining hall people are going to sit with their main friend group, maybe their sorotity, fraternity, roommates, athletic team, music group, or whatever else, but if I decided to eat with my friends who are athletes one day, no one would think twice about it. Political activity is low at Richmond. That doesnt mean we dont talk it to death though. If you want to talk politics you can ask any student on campus and they'll probably have an opinion, but the problem is, no one acts on it. With everything going on on-campus I think students sometimes forget about the bigger picture.
Students often criticize Richmond for being too homogenous, but I must say those who don't "fit the mold" do a great job of making their presence known and respected. The school has been getting through some racial issues and although I can't say segregation isn't present, I think that's something just about every school suffers from. The administration and student body has made a strong commitment to combat any form of racism and prejudice. There isn't a huge LGBT community but I think any students of that type could easily find their niche. Most students are wealthy and are from the Northeast (and probably belong to a country club) but there are students from all over the country and the world. I would not say students are politically aware but rather politically apathetic. I often hear students voice political opinion or back a particular candidate but they can rarely back their opinions up. It's primarily the business students who are career and future oriented; those in the liberal arts just seem to be aimlessly floating around and will worry about the future when the time comes.
There isn't too much diversity here. I know the university tries very hard to make it diverse but there are just some forces that exist that are preventing diversity from happening. Most of the kids are from white, upper middle class to high class families. Lots of them drive brand new, expensive cars, have multiple siblings, and live in large, suburban houses. The girls tend to dress nicely to go to class, meaning their Lacoste or J. Crew sweaters, jeans tucked into high-heeled boots, and pearl necklaces. I usually see guys wearing jeans and button-up shirts, but a significant minority like to wear khaki pants. I also see a bunch of guys wearing peach or pink pants every once in a while. I'd say most of the students come from New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. I think there's a significant political following here, too. There are a few die-hard activists out there, as well as the Young Democrats and College Republicans clubs. I think both political parties are equally well-represented on campus.