Due to racial tension erupting nationally, specifically the recent events at the University of Missouri campus, New College students held a march to the bay as an act of solidarity with Mizzou’s black students. The march occurred on Nov. 20, and was attended by more than 20 students as well as members of the sociology department, including Professors Sarah Hernandez and Queen “Mecca” Zabriskie. Provost Stephen Miles was also in attendance. The march was followed by a conversation in College Hall on what could be done to deal with racism on New College’s campus. Ideas, opinions and reactions were provided by members of the New College community.
Some of the issues that were addressed by the group included desires for safe spaces, the need for qualified professionals who can help students deal with issues of diversity, as well as specific ways that diversity on campus can be increased. Some strategies that were presented included increasing the number of black faculty on campus, as well as connecting to more local institutions that could lead to more people of color joining the school. Other initiatives included the implantation of support programs for people of color. A major point that was reiterated throughout the meeting was that, even if diversity were increased, there would need to be systems in place to support people of color.
“Organize your demands. Make them short-term and long-term,” Professor Zabriskie said. “Separate them on the student level and the Institutional level.”
Concerns about the practices and hiring requirements in regards to Student Affairs were also discussed. Many students said that when they did make complaints or voiced their concerns their statements fell on unhearing ears. The march and subsequent meeting were led by thesis student and Vice-President of Diversity and Inclusion Raina Nelson.
“Sometimes strength in numbers [works],” Nelson said. “Getting multiple people to write strongly worded emails, and keep up pressure with you has helped in the past. If you ever are having an issue with Student Affairs you have the right to have someone with you, present.”
A couple possible ways to address the issues with sensitivity and diversity were presented at the meeting. One suggestion was that a teach-in could be held, so that all the students, faculty and staff could gain a greater understanding of how to deal with racially tense events and other sensitive issues. Although some students at the meeting shared that they did not believe that all the faculty or administration would react positively to time being taken out of the academic schedule, Provost Miles said that he believed it could be productive.
“If you set aside a day ahead of time, build it into the calendar, make it deliberate, I think the college and faculty would respond favorably,” Miles said. “The purpose of education would be insufficient if we didn’t apply what we were learning to our own social world, turn a critical eye on our student body.”
Campuses across the country, small and large, are dealing with hard issues and tensions, but at New College students are taking it upon themselves to enact change.