One week following Springfield College student Elijah Ryan’s protest that was accompanied with a sign bearing the nerve-striking words, “Springfield College Does Not Care About Black People,” an open forum was held to address the issue on October 6.
Ryan himself attended the meeting and broke his silence on the matter. His request suggested that the focus would be shifted towards the lives of black and Latino people on campus, though he did not give a full statement. Before departing the meeting, Ryan declared that he was “at peace.” Senior Marissa Puchalski, an attendant of the meeting, commented that “Each individual who attended cared.”
A second discussion followed on October 8. Puchalski’s observation held true in the second assembly. Approximately 40 individuals came together to create a ring within the Dodge Ballroom after the John Wilson Lounge proved unable to contain such a crowd.
It was there, within an hour and a half, within that circle, that the reasoning behind Ryan’s sign of eight words seemingly came to light. All who attended spoke together and sketched a general, yet alarming realization of what he may have meant.
The forum began with an abundance of questions concerning race, the typical questions that erupted during Ryan’s week of protest: Are we not supposed to speak of race? Does color affect the right to talk about it? How do we avoid being offensive?
Ryan’s argument, however, echoed through the arguments of those attending when several Springfield students explained their feeling of separation on campus, their uncertainty of where to go. These feelings stemmed from the claim that there are not enough students “like them.” An ultimate question asked in the forum was, “Does Springfield College express enough inclusion among all races?”
There was clear irritation when speaking of Springfield College’s disconnection with the city and lack of diversity in the “Photo of the Day,” which can be viewed daily on the school’s website.
Emotions blazed, frustration could be sensed, but through thick and thin, people listened to each other. The presence of curiosity and willingness to learn from others’ opinions kept the meeting on the level.