By Shaina Kanter
Goucher College’s diversity statement emphasizes “social justice, diversity, and multiculturalism.” Recently, students of color have been pushing for new initiatives.
They want to make sure that their diverse needs are being met in reality, not just on paper.
Marissa Charlemagne ‘17 is one such student. Although she is currently abroad in Jordan, and has unreliable Wi-Fi, she is staying as involved as she can. Arthur Mutijima ’18 and Dean Bryan Coker worked with more than a dozen other students during J-term in order to put Goucher’s mission statement into action. Dean Coker saw the need for such action since his arrival in early 2013.
“We lack the staffing and structure to coordinate such efforts, especially when compared to our peer and aspirant colleges,” he said. Currently, Goucher does not have a specific institution equipped to handle the diverse needs of any minority group on campus.
Students of color on campus have long been dissatisfied with how they were being treated, and the latest national protests over excessive police brutality sparked vigils of solidarity and protests on Goucher’s campus.
With race on the radar, students of color were given the opportunity to voice their grievances at a meeting in the Geen Room on December 9th. According to Charlegmange, these grievances have long been “pushed under the rug.” During the meeting, students wrote up a list of short-term and long-term goals. These goals included hiring an associate dean of intercultural affairs, having a visible space dedicated to multiculturalism, and ultimately the hiring of a chief diversity officer. These demands were presented to Dean Coker, who signed several copies to signify “Goucher’s commitment to their success.” Dean Coker said that he hopes that the safe space will be chosen within the next week. He also said, “I have been immensely proud of our students, as they have sought and found their voices, in speaking about their lived experiences at Goucher.”
This movement has largely been a testament to the agency and power of students.
“Passionate students just organized and made things happen,” Mutijima said when asked how the movement came to be.
Although the power of students has been highlighted, faculty participation has so far been underwhelming.
“There are some faculty who have done a lot to help with the movement, and because I have not already, I want to thank them now, they know who they are…However, I do not believe that the faculty as a whole has helped to their fullest potential.” Charlemagne said.
“Faculty is having trouble organizing effectively. Very receptive of student ideas, doesn’t know what to do. Students have to come up with everything,” Mujitina added. He also believes that faculty training is of the “upmost importance.”
Dean Coker sees this ignorance as a lack of education, not a symptom of apathy. “President Bowen and I recognize that our community needs help in working through these difficult issues, and the Diversity Standing Committee is actively looking into outside consultants/facilitators to assist the community in moving forward with these matters,” he said.
As a part of this education, several students of color were involved in creating a video that illustrates the lived experiences of students of color. The group plans to showcase the video in a way that reaches as many community members as possible. Both Coker and Charlemagne assert that these events are only the beginning.
“We are only beginning to gain greater awareness of the challenges our campus community must confront, and there is so much work to do,” Dean Coker said.