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Mary-Beth Cooper addresses demands of diversity groups on campus

Jac St. Jean
@jacsaintj

On Wednesday, Sept. 24, President Mary-Beth Cooper reached out to members of the Springfield College community regarding some demands brought to attention by the leadership of four diversity groups: Men of Excellence (MOE), Women of Power (WOP), Student Society for Bridging Diversity (SSBD), and the Black Student Union (BSU). 

Some of the demands listed were to create a required, one-credit Anti-Black Racism course, develop an explicit no tolerance policy around hate speech, and hire a Black counselor in the counseling center. 

The student manual currently does not contain a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech, making this demand extremely inclusive as it can cover all of the bases in regard to all groups. 

“I appreciate the conversations with student leaders who have advocated for immediate and demonstrable actions. Our conversations will continue and we remain committed to action,” Cooper noted in her email to the campus community regarding demands for change.

One student leading the forefront of these actions is senior Tyson Jones, double majoring in sociology and psychology, and the treasurer for the recently created BSU. The mission statement of this group is “to advance Black culture around and on the Springfield College campus… to increase Black involvement on campus, to create [a] tradition of events and set of precedence for Black students, and influence the enrollment and retention of Black students by enhancing their social experience.” 

This isn’t something that every student considers. Students may be aware everyone comes from different backgrounds and upbringings, but there is a need to recognize that everyone’s current experiences and situations are different. 

“Painting a rock, [hanging] a flag, that’s all cool, but that doesn’t help me at the townhouses when people say the n-word, or being profiled by public safety, or being the only Black person in the class and not having a Black professor,” Jones said.

A week before the six demands were made public, President Cooper met with Jones and the rest of the board for brunch, assuring them that their voices were heard and they were on their side. 

After returning to their respective diversity groups and sharing what they were told at the meeting, the BSU believed that they were being given a false sense of security. On Monday, Sept. 21, the executive board of the BSU met once again with President Cooper and Dr. Calvin Hill, the VP for Inclusion and Community Engagement, and “pushed the conversation” more than they ever had, expressed how they truly felt about the college, and demanded to see tangible change on the campus. 

“This was the first time we came with real, hard, tangible goals and we weren’t going to take no [for an answer],” Jones said. “What the school tries to do is they’ll give you every reason why not something can work instead of a yes or no answer.

“Don’t act like you’re about the cause when you’re not about the cause,” Jones claimed. A few days later, President Cooper sent out that email to the community, and plans for each demand were laid to go into effect as soon as possible.

Alongside Jones, senior Jasmine Hastings sat in at both of these meetings. Hastings is the secretary of both the BSU and SSBD. “BSU is like the umbrella group for the other diversity groups we have on campus,” Hastings elaborated. “I’m able to take what I know from my club and contribute it to the BSU, so we all come together collectively to come up with these demands that we wanted to present to MBC,” she said.

The demands presented were not hostile, but rather direct. The BSU, representing the Black students at Springfield, told President Cooper what they wanted to see, not just what they had seen, in order to create real change on campus. 

While the conversations on race over the summer helped other students and faculty understand what was going on, many students believed that no concrete change was coming of that. “We thought we had gotten stuff accomplished by having brunch with [MBC] and we found out that we didn’t really have anything accomplished,” Hastings pointed out.

Since last week, all six of the demands have been put in motion one way or another, and there is definitely more in store in the future. BSU and the other diversity groups on campus are planning to host a march on Oct. 15 to create an impact and some community activism at Springfield College. 

While it will be limited to 50 people due to COVID regulations, the BSU and other groups will continue to push forward, as they have already made some massive waves through the institution.

This story and the demands made by the diversity groups are an ongoing situation. As more details become available and actions are taken, the latest developments will be covered on scstudentmedia.com

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