Posse: not just a scholarship, an experience

By Fayola Fair ’19

The Posse Foundation is a non-profit organization with the primary goals of expanding and diversifying the pool of students that top colleges and universities recruit from, helping institutions create more inclusive communities and ensuring that Posse Scholars succeed academically, graduate and become leaders in the workforce. There are 10 Posse chapters nationally, with over 55 university partners. Lafayette has two Posse chapters on campus, one from New York City and another from D.C. Currently, there are 80 Posse Scholars that attend Lafayette.

Recently, Lafayette’s Financial Aid, Student Profile and Tuition Presidential Working Group made the recommendation to sever ties with D.C Posse. The justification is that instead of providing full tuition scholarships to students through Posse, Lafayette can recruit directly from D.C and create partnerships with community organizations to inform more students about Lafayette. There are a few issues with such reasoning.

Posse is not just about providing scholarships. Scholars complete six months of leadership training prior to coming to campus, go on a summer retreat to strength their bond as a Posse and complete leadership training. During the year, freshman and sophomore scholars attend weekly meetings with their individual Posse, individual meetings with their Posse Mentor, Big Meetings with the entire Posse community on campus and a Posse Plus Retreat with non-Posse members about a certain topic. This year’s topic is about the power of language.  

A core aspect of the Posse Foundation is increasing diversity on college campuses and creating inclusive environments. Diversity is about having a variety of people that come from different backgrounds. This tends to embody the “Big Eight”—race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, sexuality, religion, age and ability. Inclusion is having people from those different backgrounds feel accepted, comfortable and safe within a given environment; in this case, on Lafayette’s campus. Just because an institution is “diverse” does not mean that it is inclusive.  And increasing the number of students of color of Lafayette, while making the institution more diverse quantitatively, does nothing if not paired with stronger and more direct efforts to make these students feel included. Diversity is not about numbers; it is about an experience. Lafayette alone does not have the resources to create a positive experience yet.

However, Posse provides those resources. The Posse program provides many Lafayette students a community that they can find support within. As a student of color, being a Posse Scholar has made the transition to college much smoother. And while I don’t feel fully included in the general Lafayette community, I have my Posse community to rely upon. Severing ties with D.C Posse will only serve to make Posse Scholars feel forsaken by Lafayette administration, as well as destroy a thriving part of Lafayette’s community.