Bending towards Justice

On June 3, 2020, amid nationwide protests against police brutality following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Black Lives Matter activists held a march from Springfield’s Central High School to the police station downtown, tracing State Street and passing AIC’s campus. The College provided a water station and presented supportive signage outside the Colaccino Center for Health Sciences.

And in response to subsequent calls for institutions to address their complicity in racial and socioeconomic disparities, AIC has made organizational changes to better reflect its commitment to access, opportunity, and diversity.

A new web form allows AIC community members to discreetly report bias incidents and hate crimes to Vice President for Student Affairs Matthew Scott. A bias incident is defined as a behavior or act—verbal, written, or physical—targeting an individual or group based on perceived or actual characteristics (e.g., ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation) which seeks to demean, intimidate, or threaten. A hate crime is a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity. As the form notes, “All hate crimes are bias incidents, but not all bias incidents are classified as hate crimes.”

A space in the Center for Student Engagement has been designated for Black and Brown students to convene and discuss ways the campus community can continue to grow in solidarity.

The College will increase funding and further bolster the Student of Color Working Group (SOCWG), founded in the spring of 2019 to address entrenched inequities and develop a campus-wide dialogue on race and diversity. The Office of Student Life has worked with the SOCWG to formalize leadership positions—which are attached to scholarships—and provide operational programming and catering budgets for the first time in the organization’s short history. Student Life also added to its staff a graduate assistant position, which works with the Office of Diversity Education to help advise such identity-based student organizations.

Funding for Diversity Education programming increased 33 percent this year. This summer, Student Life developed the Let’s Get Real series to offer a safe forum for students to share experiences with and reactions to recent and repeating events concerning systemic racism and the Black Lives Matter movement. On August 22, 2020, Let’s Get Real hosted a virtual dialogue titled “The Problem with Saying, ‘I Don’t See Color’” as part of New Student Orientation (NSO).

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Within a larger effort to include more Diversity Education programming in orientation, resident advisors and orientation leaders completed a newly developed anti-racism training program this fall. All incoming first-year students, too, completed an augmented version during NSO. Anti-racism training will be a part of Student Life’s annual training and required for all its student employees going forward.