When we think of UNC, a couple of things come to mind — the vibrant campus life, the incredible athletic and academic departments, the hospital system filled with passionate people working to help save lives. There is an image of the University that is understood implicitly by not only members of our community but nationwide. But what is that image leaving out? When we think of UNC, who are the people that we think belong here? Who looks like they belong here?
It’s easy to fall into a narrow mindset, and easier to forget all the international faculty and staff that this university depends on. They belong here and this is their space as much as it is ours, but it seems to be difficult for them to receive the same amount of respect as their American-born counterparts.
Some of us grew up hearing the same type of American English all our lives, and may have found a new accent difficult to get used to, or a teaching philosophy that is at odds with what we were brought up learning.
College is a place to be challenged, not to be handed the same exact thing that we have experienced all our lives. An accent is never a signifier of intelligence or competence, but many students who find themselves frustrated with their professor’s way of speaking English use a lecturer’s accent against them, using it as a reason to find fault with their teaching abilities.
Accents are also an easy way to make jokes, enabling students to be rude to their instructors simply because the students cannot or will not adjust, falling back on the excuse, “I just can’t understand what they are saying!”