Fordham University Student Feels Like A Stranger in Her Own Home Borough; Says University Should Implement a Class on The Bronx

Casey Chun/The Fordham Ram
Image via Casey Chun/The Fordham Ram

Call it the the tale of two boroughs.

Fordham University, our gated community of college students where the tuition is $65k+ a year including room and board, keeps their student body”protected” from the rest of The Bronx by its gates and plethora of security guards have created this sense of otherness in the middle of our borough.

It is something I had observed growing up and while in college. It is something I still see today. Fordham University students tend not to really mingle out and about in our Bronx.

Students have also told me that Fordham often issues “security alerts” whenever something happens outside those gates in The Bronx which creates a sense of fear among the students who are not from our borough.

Shayan Artuz, Fordham class of ’17 student, recently told me that when his classmates found out he was interning in the South Bronx, the first question from his peers was not about the program nor what he was doing but, “Is it safe?”

Third generation Bronxite, Antoinette Legnini, and Fordham University student who lives in Belmont in the shadows of the university has these heartfelt words to say which have resonated with many other students online:

“I have never felt like more of a stranger in my own home on Arthur Ave than when I started going to Fordham.

The disconnect between students on campus with people who have been living in this community for years is so great that local Bronx residents are referred to as the (now derogatory term) “locals” – who are assumed to be predominantly Black or Latino. But even with my discomfort on campus – I’m still a white student and have never felt personally discriminated against because I’m not assumed to be from the Bronx.

This discomfort comes from hearing/seeing the thoughts/actions of other students on the Bronx and of “locals.” I’ve never been called a local/assumed to be from the Bronx – even though my family has been living on Arthur Avenue for three generations. I’ve never been stopped at the gate when I don’t have my ID – not once have I ever been questioned as to whether or not I went to Fordham.

When I hear the word “local” out of some people’s mouths I hear such negativity – it almost sounds like people are referring to an annoyance, an obstacle in their college fun that they have to “deal” with. Now, there’s nothing wrong with calling someone a local, but the tone and assumptions that can be adhered to this name by Fordham students is what becomes so problematic. 

The Bronx is not your college playground. Respect the community you’re spending four years in. And the Bronx is NOT just Arthur Avenue. The Bronx has a rich history and culture that cannot be reduced, rolled up, and stomped on to this derogatory “local” term.

A class on the Bronx is something that should be implemented into Fordham’s core curriculum immediately. The Bronx should be a bigger part of NSO and remain an integral part of the Rose Hill experience throughout your college experience.

Don’t let these gates fool you into thinking that everyone outside of them is “othered.” Support local businesses, talk to your neighbors, engage in community activity. Demand that Fordham does a better job. Demand that Fordham does a better job. Demand that Fordham does a better job.

This culture of classism, racism, & sexism on campus is stultifying to our growth communally as well as individually and the safety of our students is at risk.

‪#‎fordhamspeaksup‬ ‪#‎fustudentsunite‬ ‪#‎fordhamstudentsunite‬

Legnini is not alone with these sentiments.

Earlier this year The Fordham Ram, the university’s school newspaper, published an article entitled, ‘Students Consider the Effects of the Campus Gates (From Both Sides)‘, the authors write:

“It is not the walls of the ivy-covered Gothic buildings that students believe are causing a rift, but the black iron gates that enclose our campus.

In a country where the contrast between the “haves” and “have-nots” is constantly becoming sharper, many students are beginning to ask how a life inside the gates of campus adds to that divergence.”

Cailin McKenna and Joe Vitale continue to write about a forum that happened earlier this year:

“The discussion also tried to confront the perception of Fordham’s campus — often described as an “Oasis in the Bronx” — but from the perspective of those outside the gates.

The 85-acre campus is among the largest privately owned green spaces in New York City — something the university once listed on its “Fordham Facts” webpage.

Still, students questioned the implications of labeling campus as an “oasis.” “An oasis,” they essentially asked, “from what?”

“The gates symbolize a college versus community campus. They separate us from where the security alerts happen,” said Carlos Salazar, FCRH ’17, another diversity peer leader who facilitated the event. “They develop into an us versus them mentality and create a negative stereotype for anyone who isn’t allowed through the gates.”

Instead of creating this atmosphere of otherness, we should be united together as a borough rather than a temporary layover in a student’s life and career.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.