Members of UMass community offer ways to improve the experience of people of color on campus at special meeting of Connections in Color

By Anthony Rentsch

(Collegian File Photo)
(Collegian File Photo)

Members of the University of Massachusetts community shared their suggestions on what students, faculty and staff could do to improve the experience of people of color on campus at a special meeting held by Connections in Color Wednesday evening.

The roughly two-hour event, held in the Campus Center auditorium, gathered between 40 and 50 people from all walks of campus. Attendees shared their suggestions on what should happen from both a top-down and a bottom-up approach to provide students, faculty and administrators of color with the resources to succeed and feel comfortable at UMass.

Connections in Color, which is run by Oscar Collins of the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Students Success and Linda Scott of the Center of Counseling and Psychological Services, typically hosts discussions to talk about the pressures of being a student of color at UMass.

Collins discussed the walkout led by students earlier in the day which called for more actions from the administration to address racism on campus. He also addressed  the email sent by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy to the campus community detailing actions taken by the Diversity Strategic Planning Committee in response to allegations of racial inequality at UMass.

Collins critiqued some of the points of progress outlined in Subbaswamy’s email, saying that there needs to be “continuous, consistent change, not Band-Aids.”

Both Collins and Scott encouraged students to report any incidents of bias or racism using UMass’ centralized reporting system, which was addressed in Subbaswammy’s email.

One complaint levied by Lydia Washington, associate director of student activities and involvement, was a lack of support for the University’s cultural organizations. She said that the roughly 30 active cultural organizations need increased levels of funding to be able to host cultural programming. Washington also suggested an increase in faculty advisors to support cultural groups, as well as more collaboration between the groups and CMASS.

“The University needs to invest in these student-initiated programs,” Washington said.

Chantal Lima Barbosa, vice president of the Student Government Association, told attendees that she and SGA president Sïonan Barrett will meet with the administration next week to discuss a proposal to implement first-year seminars focused on issues of racism, bystandership and allyship.

Nicole Villar Hernandez, a social thought and political economy, and mathematics major, said she would prefer if University resources were diverted more directly toward students of color to improve their educational experience. Many people said that students of color at UMass faced food insecurity and that the minimum wage for campus workers needed to go up to account for this.

Many participants also spoke of the need for people of color on campus to support one another. Some suggested creating a specific UMass or Five College directory for black students, faculty and staff, while others said that it is important for people of color to acknowledge each other when they see each other around campus.

The conversation lasted until shortly after 7 p.m., as people filtered in and out of the auditorium.

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Anthony_Rentsch.