By Katie Sittig-Boyd
February’s community meeting was held last Thursday, Feb. 18, in the Linda K. Paresky conference center, and, in contrast to the prior meeting, centered on listening to students’ experiences, suggestions, and concerns.
Despite being held on the cusp of two class blocks, the meeting was attended by approximately 150 faculty, students, and staff. Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Lisa Smith-McQueenie addressed students’ concerns, with Provost Katie Conboy, President Helen Drinan, and Associate Dean for Administrative and Academic Affairs Leanne Doherty chiming in when necessary for clarification.
Student concerns were particularly acute with regard to addressing professors’ inappropriate remarks, microaggressions, and flat-out aggressions alike, either in class or outside of the classroom. Citing power dynamics and fear of retribution, students drew attention to the dilemma they face when professors step out of line.
Administrators, including Smith-McQueenie, Dean Sarah Neill, and Doherty, addressed this concern, stating that, ideally, students who do not feel comfortable speaking to the professor directly should have support of the Office of Student Life, either to serve as proxy or to accompany students who want to speak with professors directly.
Several first-years spoke about the lack of support for first-generation students, particularly first-generation students of color, and how difficult it is to access resources to ease the complexity of navigating financial aid and scholarship applications, for instance.
Two professors also addressed the possibility of holding panels, for the benefit of students and professors, regarding first-generation experiences, as well as the lived experiences of faculty of color.
The meeting concluded when Smith-McQueenie announced that Simmons will be establishing a multicultural student office on the academic campus, an announcement which was met with significant enthusiasm from those present.
The next community meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 22, from 3-4 p.m. in room C-101 in the Main College Building. Past coverage of community meetings and organizations related to the Ten Demands can be found online on the Simmons Voice website.