“Can you hear us now” gave way to “We love Colgate, Go ‘Gate, No Hate” as about 400 students, faculty, and staff marched together from the Hurwitz Admission Center at James B. Colgate Hall to Memorial Chapel on the Academic Quad.
The euphoric and historic ceremony marked the end of a peaceful, 100-hour-long demonstration that was initiated by students on Monday, Sept. 22, in order to create a culture of greater inclusivity on campus.
Amidst the chanting came a fitting sound: the Chapel bell tolled a ceremonial 13 times.
“We ring the bells to mark a passage, a victory, or a celebratory moment,” said Deacon Mark Shiner, university chaplain, who invited Cyierra Roldan ’16 to do the honors. “Hopefully today is all three.”
Hope is apropos and so will be hard work, as the process of creating a culture of inclusivity is difficult and ongoing. “Colgate for All,” a new website dedicated to the cause, features a 21-point road map that will be followed closely for months and years to come. The document was developed over many hours of conversation between students representing the Colgate University Association of Critical Collegians (ACC), and Colgate President Jeffrey Herbst, Suzy Nelson, dean of the college, and Douglas Hicks, provost and dean of the faculty.
“We all have learned and grown over the past week,” said President Herbst, “and moving forward we are committed to working on all of the issues and action items that have been raised, as well as others that were not formally articulated.”
Nelson, who has experienced other student demonstrations during her career, said, “Today is an important day. I’m grateful to our students for raising up their voices and challenging us in all the right ways.”
Kori Strother ’15 spoke today on the steps of James B. Colgate Hall. “I am so proud of everyone,” she said. We walk up the hill with our heads held high. I will never forget this.”
The student movement offered a teaching and learning moment. “Our students have been remarkable in their thoughtfulness and organization,” said Hicks. “It was clear they were putting into practice lessons learned from coursework. Colgate will be stronger for it.”
Susan Thomson, assistant professor of peace and conflict studies, brought her International Human Rights, Law and Advocacy students to meet on the patio of the James B. Colgate building.
Thomson said, “A key theme of our course is the formal (government imposed) and informal (happening in society) policies and practices of exclusion that make mass political violence part of the Rwandan landscape. We then talked about the informal practices and micro-aggressions of racism and privilege that are currently happening on campus.”
Thomson said the conversation opened many students’ eyes to the extent to which some members of the Colgate community are being shunned or excluded. “Now that they know, some said they will stand up and speak out (i.e., be an ally) when they see injustice on campus.”