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Alumni of color speak out about their personal experiences at Springfield

Irene Rotondo

On Sunday, Oct. 4, committee members of the Legacy Alumni of Color organization met with Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper, along with the President’s Leadership Team and Trustees, over Zoom to discuss their past experiences as Springfield College students. 

For the first hour of the meeting, eleven Springfield College alumni of color recounted memories of racism they experienced decades ago while attending school there. The recall of such memories was to demonstrate to President Cooper how the issues the alumni faced as students long ago are similar, if not the same, as the issues that still affect the lives of her Black and brown students today.

During the second hour, those present at the Zoom meeting were then given the floor to ask the eleven alumni questions about their experiences or make comments. Some alumni concurred with one another, agreeing upon certain members of the community they recalled to be hateful towards the Black and brown community. 

Others asked the present Springfield College administration members about the systemic racism Springfield College has supported within itself since the alumni were students themselves.

The conclusion of the meeting, however, did not signal the conclusion of the Legacy Alumni of Color’s work. Following the meeting, Legacy Alumni of Color sent “A Blueprint for Change” to President Cooper and her team. 

This Blueprint is a cohesive plan to ensure the comfort of Black and brown students at Springfield College for the present and the future. The subcommittee, entitled “Legacy Alumni of Color: A Blueprint for Change” created an entire plan for the academic, athletic, mental well-being, and social success of Black and brown Springfield College students. A print copy was given to President Cooper as well.

As stated in the introduction of the Blueprint, the alumni comprising the committee have been fighting racial injustice “collectively and individually” for over 50 years. In addition to President Cooper’s own plan, entitled “Embracing the Promise of Tomorrow, 2017-2022: The Inclusion Strategic Plan for Springfield College,” the Legacy Alumni of Color are looking to help Springfield College in its fight for racial justice by ending “manifestations of prejudice” and “consequences of racism” through their “Blueprint for Change.”

Following the Blueprint’s introduction is a list of Recommendations from the Legacy Alumni of Color. These recommendations are key points of change the Legacy feels is important for Springfield College to consider, such as hiring POC in the Counseling Center and Office of Spiritual Life. The Legacy knows how important it is to have strong ties in a college community, not just between students and faculty, and recommended the College hosts activities and events for the off-campus Springfield city community to take part in. Along with nine other vital points, the Legacy also stated that the PLT must increase its “ethnic diversity” in order to “set an example for the college.”

After the list of Recommendations, the Blueprint then delves into five different recommendations made by the Legacy with Committee Reports on exactly what the issue is with student statements to support, the steps of action needed to be taken ranging from Immediate, Near Term, and Long Term, the cost of what it will take to make the recommendation happen, and information on resources for referral. Each of the five recommendations was also assigned a Committee Chair leader and includes a list of members, ranging from Legacy Alumni of Color to current students, who are committed to making the change desired.

The first recommendation, “Mentoring Students of Color,” speaks on the issue of Springfield College’s lack of mentors of color for students navigating “their social life, academic demands, and career choices.” Black and brown students at Springfield College are unable to learn from people who look like them and share their lived experiences.

In Immediate, Near Term, and Long Term actions, the Legacy is looking to “establish relationships and partner with the staff of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Career Center, the Alumni Relations Office, and the Institutional Advancement Office” so the committee can gain support for their initiatives. The recruitment and training of alumni of color and current Springfield College upperclassmen of color will follow, and locations and backgrounds will be established of the alumni of color to ensure undergraduate students are recipients of “positive… meetings and experiences.”

The second recommendation contains the issue of “Recruiting and Retaining Faculty and Coaches of Color.” Black and brown student-athletes and non-student-athletes alike have voiced their concerns of not having anyone to relate to, on and off the field. The Legacy acknowledged that since 1961, “Springfield College has increased the current number of full-time faculty of color to four.” Dr. Calvin Hill clarified during the meeting that there are actually six faculty of color on the main campus between full-time and adjunct professors. Currently, the only Springfield College coach of color is the head coach of the golf team.

Steps of action include identification of alumni with coaching experience and their help in recruiting “ potential head coaches, coaching staff and faculty.” The Legacy then goes on to list an assortment of different recruiting methods the College can employ, including target advertising, developing relationships with “Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), as well as Hispanic and Tribal institutions”, outreach towards various communities of color, and more. In the long term, the Legacy would like to “‘Grow our own’” and help talented Black and brown student-athletes to become coaches for undergrad students.

Thirdly, the Legacy Alumni of Color recommended “Dialogue Between Public Safety Staff and Students of Color.” Students of color have expressed multiple times over the discomfort and mistreatment they face at the hands of Public Safety Staff. The Legacy wants to “establish a greater level of trust” between students and Public Safety Officers. In immediate action, the first and foremost is the requirement of all Public Safety Staff to be issued identification badges, and their photo identification is to be displayed on the uniform.

Near Term actions include the introduction of Public Safety Staff at Freshman Orientation to students and parents and the creation of a workshop “for Public Safety Staff and students of color to meet face-to-face to talk, listen and plan.” The recommendation goes on to explain exactly what will take place during said workshop, and an evaluation sheet filled out by participants should be completed at the end of the workshop. For Long Term, the Legacy plans to keep “the dialogue between Public Safety Staff and students of color” as an annual event.

The fourth recommendation made by the Legacy is “A Day to Confront Racism, Power, Privilege, and Prejudice.” The alums acknowledged that systematic racism pervades every single institution in the United States of America, and the Black and brown students of Springfield College suffer through it every day. One step the Legacy feels necessary is making March 25 a daylong event of confronting “racism, power, privilege and prejudice” in part of remembrance of the day being International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery & Transatlantic Slave Trade.

The Legacy stated classes should not be held that day, and a variety of workshops including a film viewing, white supremacy discussion, addressing racism on the Springfield College campus, and many more. An evaluation on attitudes toward race, completed electronically by all participants, will be given at the beginning and end of the workshops. In long term, the Legacy wishes to commemorate the 100 anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre May 31 through June 1, 2021, and combine the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery & Transatlantic Slave Trade with the annual Arts and Humanities speaker, lest it become its own remembered event by the College.

The final recommendation in the Blueprint is the “Recognition of Distinguished Alumni, Faculty and Community Partners.” The Legacy feels that many alumni, faculty, and community members who “contributed significantly to the Springfield College community and greater society” have not been properly recognized by the College. They then put forth their own list of alumni and community members they feel have still not been recognized for their “outstanding achievements”. 

Following a description of each alumni and community member and their achievements within the Springfield community, the Legacy also recommended what honors each person should receive. These honors, ranging from plaques and building namesakes to invitations to other communities to join ours and the development of current outside relationships, will serve to show the love and respect Springfield College has for each individual.

“Legacy Alumni of Color: A Blueprint for Change” will be an essential component in Springfield College’s fight for racial justice on campus. The change will not happen overnight, nor will it happen in a week, a month, or even a year. However, the plans outlined in the Blueprint will withstand the test of time, allowing Springfield College Black and brown students to come out stronger than before on the other side.

The Legacy Alumni of Color group will meet with the President’s Leadership Team in the upcoming weeks to hear their response.

Photo: Springfield College Archives and Special Collections 

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