Because it was a historically conservative, white, protestant institution, W&J often lacked outlets for minority students to both learn about and celebrate their culture through clubs and classes. W&J community members were the catalysts of the development of culturally diverse groups that included but were not limited to Campus Club, Black Women of Class (BWOC), Cultural Awareness and Support Enrichment Group (C.A.S.E), and Hillel. Student advocates of these groups also inspired curricular changes, including the development of the first African American literature course and the African American Studies concentration.
Campus Club was established in 1937 by 6 students as an organization for those who were not represented by fraternities. The club was known for its diverse membership, which included athletes and academic achievers. Members of the club prided themselves on having a diverse group of interests in many honorary societies and other school activates.
The club was included in the Pandora Yearbooks under the fraternity section, even though it considers itself a non-fraternity organization. They were known for holding dances at the college, including the Christmas and Spring Dance. This safe-haven includes those who would be denied from fraternities. The students at W&J have the opportunities to join a brotherhood that was accepting of non-white students through the Campus Club.
Cultural Awareness Support Enrichment Group (C.A.S.E)
In the 1988-1989 school year, the Cultural Awareness Support Enrichment Group (C.A.S.E) was founded as a compromise by administration to discussions and complaints of no groups on campus for black students. The mission of C.A.S.E was to provide Students of Color with a safe space for gathering together and for organizing events that highlight their heritage, ethnicity, and culture for everyone on campus. This group also voiced concerns to the student body, administration, and faculty pertaining to their unique experiences at Washington & Jefferson College. From inception, C.A.S.E welcomed students from the diverse backgrounds that make up the campus to learn about cultures and experiences different from their own.
Hillel International, founded in 1923, is one of the largest Jewish campus organizations in the world, dedicated to “Enriching the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.” College Hillel chapters provide a space for Jewish students to grow in their identity while also developing leadership and professional skills. Hillel organizations provide connections to Jewish identity through non-denominational events that combine culture and faith to celebrate Judaism as a whole. W&J has had a long history of Hillel involvement, with organized groups popping up as early as the 1940’s, yet membership was sporadic on campus until 2015, which it has now become a permanent campus fixture. Today, Hillel is very active on the W&J campus through hosting events such as the Purim Carnival and Menorah lightings as well as fighting for equality for Jewish students on campus such as advocating for Kosher food in dining halls.
Black Women of Class (B.W.O.C.)
Dr. Cynthia Fulford
Dr. Cynthia Fulford ‘93, entered Washington & Jefferson College with only two women of color being on campus the previous year. Knowing the lack of diversity on campus, Dr. Fulford was prepared to create a community for herself and other African American students on campus. Dr. Fulford found family in the Cultural Awareness Support Enrichment group (C.A.S.E) where she served as its last president. As a strong educational activist, Dr. Fulford was a founder of the Black Women of Class (BWOC), as well as the reemergence of the BSU at Washington & Jefferson College. During her involvement in the BSU, she was also the organizer of the highly successful Step Show of 1991. After her graduation from Washington & Jefferson, Dr. Cynthia Fulford attended Syracuse University where she received her master’s in Higher Education and her PhD in Higher Education from Bowling Green State University. Today, Dr. Fulford is the assistant director of the Support for Teachers Education Program (STEP) at the College of New Jersey.