Springfield College, home of the Spirit, Mind and Body mantra, has been working towards becoming a more diverse and inclusive campus community. From more accessibility on campus to more diversified programming, this has been a multi-pronged effort. Dr. Calvin Hill, the Vice President of Inclusion and Community Engagement, was able to shed more light on these efforts.
Hill joined the college back in July of 2015. However, he explained that even before he was hired as the college’s first ever inclusion officer, diversifying the campus had already been in the works. President Mary Beth Cooper had her own plans in action to look at issues on campus. Even now he emphasized that, though it’s his job to keep issues of diversity and inclusion at the forefront, making changes requires the cooperation of everyone on campus, including students and faculty. When describing the effort it takes to make a campus truly diverse he said, “Diversity and inclusion work isn’t rocket science. It’s a lot harder.”
At first that statement seems unfounded. But when one looks at what diversity really is, it becomes clear that there’s a lot of work involved. Seeking to be diverse and inclusive means accounting for all possible differences, and accommodating them. As Hill pointed out though, due to personal biases, it can be easy to overlook key differences that people may possess. As an example, he spoke of the construction that’s become an all too familiar sight on campus. On the sidewalks of Alden Street pipes jut out, making the pathway hard to navigate. So for students who are in wheelchairs, it’s likely an even harder task. Many people might not give thought to things like this, not because of malice, but simply because it hasn’t crossed their minds.
This and other scenarios like it are part of what’s being considered in the plan that’s been put into place to make Springfield College a more accommodating place. This plan includes four major steps, the first being to increase and retain diversity. This means an intensified effort in recruiting and retaining staff and faculty members that better reflect the increasing diversity of America. It also means an increase in engaging with alumni, distributing scholarships to potential students, and as aforementioned, making programming here on campus more diverse.
The second aspect of the plan has to deal with enhancing diverse learning. A greater emphasis is being placed on social justice and service to others. According to Hill, the question that needs to be asked when crafting curriculums and courses is, “How can what is going on in our classrooms help our students to create institutional change?”
The third goal is to make sure the campus is accessible. This means taking into consideration those who struggle due to issues with mobility, sight, and hearing. Interestingly enough, this also means accessibility to the campus for community members. Residents of Springfield have already been given access to the track, the Wellness Center and the Cheney dining hall. Also, two years ago, a collaboration was started by the college with Sigma Pi Phi and The Basketball Hall of Fame, which has given community members a chance to attend affordable events with basketball stars like Shaquille O’Neal. This gives people a chance to get acquainted with Springfield College. It also leads to a chance for greater diversity on campus, by catching the eyes of
Creating a sense of community on campus is the fourth aspect of this plan. That means supporting a climate that encourages diversity on campus. To achieve this, climate studies have been planned to assess what the campus is really like. Students have also been given a louder voice by way of student council and the trustee board. Deja Ware, a junior, and Khalil Content, a sophomore, are both members of the student council. Donavin Andrews, a senior, is the senior student trustee. This gives students a platform to share what’s going on in campus, things that administrators and faculty might not be aware of.
What is the goal of all of this? The simple answer would be to create a more diverse, inclusive campus. But there are more benefits to this plan. For one thing, a more inclusive campus benefits everybody in the long run, both students from diverse backgrounds along with the majority students. This is because, as Hill explained, “Having the ability to have these conversations on a campus environment where we are here to focus on intellectual inquiry is something I see as a value. The experiences that diversity bring us will be of value for years to come.”
Additionally, America has always been a constantly changing landscape. With this plan comes the ability for Springfield College to change along with it, for the better. As Hill said, “When you check the box off and say that you’re done, you’re ceasing to grow. Not only are we the Springfield College of today but also the Springfield College of 2050.”