When people apply to go away for college, they daydream about living on campus and being on their own for the first time. Getting the chance to finally go to school for what they want to do in their future careers, the idea of anything happening or the change of environment doesn’t really cross anyone’s minds until they’re fully in it.
People deal with adversity all the time because of who they are and what they have been through. Culture shock when moving onto a campus that looks different from home can be tremendous, and felt heavily by students.
These are the thoughts of many on campus, particularly at Springfield College. Consequently, people have a lot of thoughts about the state of the campus. A week ago, a community art piece was put up in the Union and gained tons of traction as people on campus answered the prompt, “I wonder why…” with responses as practical from, “Why is college so expensive?” to more serious topics such as, “I was raped,” with numerous arrows to that statement saying, “Me too.”
Jessica Poser, Assistant Professor of Art and Community Engagement / Gallery Director, and her class put the “I wonder why…” wall in the Campus Union on Tuesday afternoon before it was taken down. Poser explained the inspiration and background for the art piece in the Union.
“Every semester, I do a chalkboard piece with my students. It’s inspired by the artist Candy Chang whose done these chalkboard pieces all over the world that are interactive and participatory. (A piece Chang has done before) says, ‘Before I die, I want to…’ and then there’s a blank space. It gives the opportunity for anyone passing by to interact with the piece and add their own personal perspective and story,” Poser explained.
However, Poser gave her students the opportunity to pick the prompt and they decided to do things a little differently this time. “We normally do one here (second floor, Blake Hall chalkboard) and this semester my students said, ‘Well let’s do it in the Union.’ So although we do it every semester, this was the first time we did one in the Union.”
According to Poser, the goal for this community art piece was to create a forum for people to participate anonymously to share their thoughts and feelings without any judgement and direct questioning. Opening this forum allows students to state any opinions, either funny or serious.
“They tried to come up with a prompt that would be the most inclusive. So, ‘I wonder why…’ you can take it in a serious direction, or you can take it in a more silly direction. It’s completely personal and open to interpretation.” Poser said, explaining more on her ideas behind the prompt.
Although the wall quickly filled up and gained tons of traction towards students, it’s immediate removal did not give other students a chance to write on it.
“We knew that in the morning that we were going to take it down, save it, get it back to Jessica (Poser) because we have the board of trustees and homecoming starting, so that wasn’t the only thing in the lobby, everything was cleared out of the lobby to set it for homecoming,” Vice President of Student Affairs Patrick Love told SCTV3’s Cam Smith.
Some students didn’t even know it happened, until people started sharing it on social media. One specific social media explosion was from a club on campus, Men of Excellence (MOE), that spotlighted the video on Instagram using the IG TV feature which was a two minute and 50 second video that featured voices of students in the club and their opinions while showing many of the things that were written on the wall.
What was just a regular Tuesday night meeting for the students in MOE, turned into something much different than planned once they stumbled upon Poser’s class’ community art piece. Kris Rhim, Vice President of MOE, explained the background process of what went behind the video and how it became a huge social media discussion.
“Our plan was for Tyler Murello (member of the club who takes videos of MOE’s meetings) to edit the video together and for us to post it on social media. The intentions of putting the board on social media was so that the board can stick around forever,” Rhim said. “What our video did was just add on to the things that were on the wall and highlight those frustrations even more on social media so that other people can see it outside the school and can enforce the school to do something by hearing from multiple students who feel strongly about these issues.”
Rhim touched on the topic of how he personally felt as a student attending Springfield College and seeing different things on the wall.
“I thought this was really cool, being a person who is always telling my friends to speak up, stand up for what you believe in, if you see something say something… I thought this was a great step for students to speak up about what they feel,” he said.
However, he did exclaim his personal feelings of shock as well.
“Seeing the things about people being raped, the amount of ‘Me too’s,’ and ‘they didn’t believe me,’ was really alarming and stood out a lot. As a man who has never been assaulted or raped, as a person, that has never affected me. I knew it existed but when I saw it on the board, it really surprised me and helped me learn more about something that I didn’t know was as prominent, especially at the SSBD open forum, hearing people’s stories and the process after,” he said.
Jay Sophalkalyan, a senior, also shared his feelings on what he felt when seeing the wall.
“I’m surprised with what was written on the community art piece, especially the ones regarding sexual assault and rape… it makes me wonder how many more silent rape victims are out there on our college campus,” Sophalkalyan said. “It is easy for all of us to overlook emails from Title IX preaching on about consent or to sit and listen to different talks about unlawful act of sexual violence. But really, it is an incident of the art piece being taken down, that catalyzed the warriors and protectors in all of us to rise up to the occasion and band together to demand for action from our college administration and truly bring changes.”
Having an open and honest forum for students, faculty and anyone on campus is important because no one place is perfect. Everywhere, no matter the school or setting, will have its faults. What Jessica Poser and her students did was give a voice to people on campus to express themselves as any form of art helps do, and it really sparked important, real discussions.
Photo Courtesy Daniela Detore