The Institute: Nina’s Story.

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An anonymous retelling of a real student’s experience at university where they feel they have experienced cultural or racial ignorance whilst studying. Written in an effort to raise awareness of this recurring issues that students are facing. Told in the format of a short story with fictional characters and locations.

Character: Nina

Location: Fictional Art College called ‘The Institute’

Freedom: “The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants”. This had always been a factor in Nina’s life. At the age of 18 when University was on the horizon, all she really wanted was a place where she felt she could be free.  From a young age, Nina had been a very vocal wordsmith. People often referenced Edward Bulwer-Lyttons famous quote “The pen is mightier than the sword” when Nina would voice her passionate opinions, however, she felt she had yet to find her true vocation. As humans we naturally try to better ourselves, others found her writing spectacular but she herself found it inept and in need of refinement. The Institute advertised a solution to both of these factors in their Journalism course, so naturally, Nina applied.

Fast forward two years, Nina is now in her second year. Her first year at The institute was mainly made up of going through the basics. The second year arguably was the year in which she finally had a chance to really write, and so write she did. The first proper task they were given gave Nina exactly what she wanted; freedom. Her lecturers simply told her to choose an idea, choose her audience, pitch that idea and then write it. It sounded easy enough to her. After a week or so of thinking, she finally came up with a pitch. As a young black woman who grew up as a fan of  hip hop culture, she decided that her piece would focus on the nuances of community. She drew up her pitch and submitted it, awaiting feedback in the following week.

A week passed quickly, and her pitch feedback had arrived. She knew her lecturer wasn’t a part of the demographic she was writing for, so she expected him to give her the all clear immediately and let her start writing away. However, upon opening her response, she was made aware that that would not be her reality.  His lack of knowledge of the culture led him  to disregard her piece, simply labelling it as incorrect due to his ignorance of the community. Labelling a lot of topics and even album names in the culture i.e. ‘Yeezus’ as jargon that the reader wouldn’t understand, simply because he didn’t understand. Whenever he would encounter a word or a phrase he didn’t quite identify with he would label it as incorrect instead of taking the time to research and find out its meaning for himself. Most of what Nina was saying in her pitch was lost in translation, it was simply marked as incorrect and she was told to think up something new.

Reading his response, Nina was frustrated and confused. As a student, work is meant to be produced and the lecturer is meant to take their time in giving feedback; especially in a case like this where the student has the option to choose whom their target audience is. She felt her skills were discredited and her voice was being ignored. She was flat out rejected instead of being given back something she felt she could build on. Being quite a prideful person Nina went on to write her piece regardless of what was said, however, the road became a lot more stressful, difficult and lonely for her, as she felt she didn’t have any academic support along the way.


Nina’s opinions on how this should be dealt with:

“The staff that are hired to teach and to assist students need to be more diverse. People from different cultural backgrounds that can understand what others wouldn’t. People who have been through different walks of life and in this case write about different genres; this way our work wouldn’t all be one dimensional and we are able to cultivate our own individual writing styles. Having lecturers who are all similar isn’t progressive in regards to the arts; art is meant to constantly move forward and evolve.”


Words by Michael Ukaegbu.

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