By Lindsey Stokes
The attention of those sitting in the Common Grounds lounge Monday afternoon shifted from friends and homework to the 100 plus student and faculty demonstrators, most dressed in black, silently filing in and planting themselves in a circle at the center of the room, arms locked, clutching a list of demands.
The sit-in, which lasted almost two hours, addressed the mistreatment of students of color on campus. Though protest participants remained silent, word of the protest quickly spread to the offices of Provost Katie Conboy and President Helen Drinan, both of whom arrived to view the list of demands twenty minutes after the start of the demonstration. A meeting time of 1 p.m. between the two administrators and protest spokespersons was decided upon and both Drinan and Conboy left. The protest continued.
As more students joined the protest, graduates and undergraduates alike linking arms with friends and professors, the atmosphere became more solemn. Only the sound of hushed whispers and the screaming of the espresso machine could be heard.
Outside reactions to the protest was mixed. Many stopped to watch, some took pictures, and others were handed the list of demands by demonstrators to view and share with friends. At least one student reported hearing a threat of physical violence against protesters, while others reported hearing general complaints about the disruption of business as usual. “I don’t mind them protesting,” said one student, “but why do they have to be in the way?”
At 1 p.m., as Drinan and Conboy made their way back to Common Grounds, the protestors read aloud their list of ten demands, the first two of which were as follows: increasing mental and physical health services to students of color and ensuring only staff thoroughly trained in these areas be staffed at the health, counseling, and nutrition center and providing institutional support to students of color, especially black students in the face of racial events on campus and nationally.
As Provost Conboy, President Drinan, and protest spokespersons sat down at the center of the room to arrange a further meeting time to address the demands, the focus of the room again shifted. All eyes rested on the two administrators. The group spoke for twenty minutes before a time and place was decided upon—Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Evans Hall basement.
“We will be meeting with the students,” said Provost Conboy. “President Drinan and I are eager to improve Simmons in every way.”
As Drinan and Conboy shuffled through the crowd away from the negotiating table, protesters hugged and cheered.
“I am excited that we were able to have this meeting,” said a protest organizer and BSO representative. “I hope that this sets a standard going forward and that we can continue to make actionable change.”