Tuesday, June 16, marked the beginning of a new series named “Conversations on Race” brought to the Springfield College community by Student Trustee Kris Rhim and Student Trustee elect Sabrina Williams. This series comes as a product of the community’s initial conversation, held on June 2, in the wake of the death of George Floyd. During that conversation, school administration said it was committed to more programming towards race relations on campus, and this series is the start of “intensive programming” to come this school year.
Approximately 200 members of the Springfield College community, including students, faculty, staff and administrators, joined Tuesday’s Zoom meeting at 6 p.m. This first episode of the series, titled “Diversity and Inclusion: The Student Perspective” discussed the perspectives of members of the Springfield College community, particularly students, on their experiences being a person of color.
Prior to joining the first meeting, participants were asked to view a TED Talk called, “Color Blind or Brave?” by Mellody Hobson, a black female business owner. They were also told to read an opinion article from Philadelphia Magazine titled, “White People, I Still Don’t Believe You” by Ernest Owens.
In her TED Talk, Mellody discussed the importance of acknowledging race and not being afraid to have a conversation about it by recounting some of her own experiences in order to show her audience the reality. Williams brought back a few of Hobson’s points in saying, “Avoiding the conversation is not helpful, it doesn’t bring awareness to anyone… it’s not our [POC] place to make you [non-POC] to feel comfortable…we feel uncomfortable all of the time, whether or not that’s your intention.”
During the review of the aforementioned article, Rhim stated that the most important point Owens made was, “To truly change racism is to change and challenge power structures.” Rhim called for action in workplaces to not just hire POC employees to have an “aesthetic” of a black face in the room, but to hire POC because they are intelligent, talented and highly capable individuals.
After discussing the introductory pieces of media, Rhim and Williams opened the floor to a list of students, faculty, staff and general members of the Springfield College community to speak out about their own experiences and beliefs both on and off campus.
The lack of representation in almost every aspect of campus – including, but not limited to – athletics, administrative positions, student leadership positions on campus, the health center and the counselling center was an important and repeated point of conversation coming from the student body. The call for POC in these roles stemmed from black students not having the ability to feel they are understood by their peers and by other fellow members of society because all they see are white faces.
Another important point made by those who spoke out at the meeting were the racial profiling issues that black male students have faced over the years by Public Safety officers on campus. Multiple black male students who spoke out at the meeting stated that they had been stopped while on campus in the past while they were either playing basketball, walking, skateboarding, or doing other regular college student activities, and asked to show their student ID to prove that they were a student on campus.
“Conversations on Race” is just getting started in aiding the Springfield College community on the ongoing battle against racism and teaching individuals how to become not only “not a racist”, but an anti-racist. Understanding that a white person will never be able to comprehend the struggle for POC is an important first step the Student Perspective offered during their first episode.
“Conversations on Race” will take place on June 23rd with its second conversation titled, “‘Defunding’ the Police” and on June 30th called, “A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League.”
Featured photo: (Jack Margaros/The Student)