Ohio University Housing and Residence Life's program, The Outlet, focuses on creating a safe space and fun programming for students of color.
The program is led by Kerry Davis, Housing and Residence Life's assistant director for conduct and care, and two graduate assistants, Cierra Smith-Carter and Diamond Allen. The group's meetings were held on the third Tuesday of every month this semester and were open to students in all grade levels.
"We saw a need for the space, housing saw a need for the space, and gave us the opportunity to create The Outlet," Smith-Carter said. "From what I've been seeing and hearing from students, I believe it's been beneficial and helpful, especially for first-and second-year students who are new to campus.”
Davis said the hate crimes and misconduct that occurred during the 2022 Spring Semester and the general climate regarding social injustice in the world influenced OU administration to provide more spaces on campus for students of color.
Allen said the program has already made a difference in the experiences of OU's students of color.
"We've jump-started something that can create that sense of community and belonging in the residence halls," Allen said. "Especially when a lot of residence halls are not very dominated by people of color."
The program has the potential to help students of color feel like they have people to go to about social injustices or just a place to talk about their experiences with people who understand, Allen said.
Smith-Carter, who studied sociology and communications for her undergraduate degree at OU, said that she had a relatively positive experience as a black woman on campus but did sometimes crave a space where she could have been around more people who looked like her and shared a similar culture.
"When I came into this role, I was like 'this is a perfect opportunity to provide that space to freshman and sophomores and whoever else here now that I think I could have really benefited from,'" Smith-Carter said.
The group's most recent meeting on Tuesday was a dinner at Nelson Dining Hall, where some Ghanaian dishes were prepared, and a game night was held after at the Living Learning Center.
Students at the event expressed that they enjoyed coming to the events because it gave them the opportunity to meet more students of color and gave them a space where they felt included.
"I think that a lot of people of color can feel excluded from other clubs on campus when you walk into a space and it's majority all white," Hali Bridges, a sophomore studying world religions, said.
Another student at the event, Deandre Quiero, a sophomore studying environmental geography, said that it's nice to have a group like The Outlet because many students of color are moving from their households, where they are mostly surrounded by people of color, to a predominantly white institution like OU.
Quiero and Bridges said they think that the programming is fun, and they encourage more students to attend the meetings.
Additionally, Davis said these connections that students make through The Outlet can lead to the retention of students of color and attract more students of color to OU.
"We want more students to come to Ohio University and hopefully more and more students of color to come to Ohio University and be willing to stay on campus," Davis said.
There are no more events scheduled for this semester, but meetings will start again next semester on Jan. 24. However, next semester's meetings will be bi-weekly instead of monthly and occur every other Tuesday at 6 p.m.
"Next semester, we're hoping to make them biweekly meetings to better fit the needs of our students because they are so passionate about building that community and getting to know each other and finding that safe, comfortable space for them," Smith-Carter said.