By Katie Sittig-Boyd
As part of the series of meetings held to address the Ten Demands put forth by student leaders last semester in mid-November, the most recent community meeting was held this Tuesday, April 12.
Like Minds, an organization committed to anti-oppression on campus, presented about their organization’s mission and goals, as well as the work they do within the context of the Simmons community.
Following the presentation, an open forum was held to discuss ongoing concerns from members of the community. Concerns included curriculum changes; enforcing diversity/anti-oppression training among faculty, staff, and students; and how best to incorporate information regarding racism and oppression into the Simmons experience.
Although a subset of faculty members has shown interest in improving curricula and improving learning environments for students in oppressed groups, speakers at the open forum expressed concern that peer-to-peer interactions are a significant source of microaggressions and harmful sentiments.
“There’s some work to be done among peers,” Lisa Smith-McQueenie acknowledged. “It’s tough for you guys to be in spaces where your peers are not supportive. But in spaces where peers are supportive, you want to multiply and enhance opportunities for students to engage in this work.”
When asked about mandating training for the Simmons student body, President Drinan, who was present at the meeting, stated that the administration still intends to enforce training for faculty and staff. As for students, “I defer to the faculty and the provost and [Smith-McQueenie] to navigate that,” Drinan said.
Several attendees expressed concern that students might be “forced” into mandatory trainings related to racial oppression and combating racism on college campuses.
“It’s important not to forget that we as marginalized students are forced into the role as educators,” said first-year student Wallace in response to the hesitancy of administrators to mandate training for the student population. “When you say that you don’t want to force students into doing anything, know that we are already forced into these roles.”
The atmosphere of the meeting was palpably more tense than prior meetings, and although it was scheduled to end at 4 p.m., it ran a full hour over.
Additional reports regarding the specific work done to address each of the Ten Demands will be presented at the next and final community meeting of the year, held May 3.