POC Center at Simon's Rock
For the last several years, students of color at Simon’s Rock have become more and more active in our community, leading discussions, workshops, and programs on racial discourse and conversation. They have educated us, baring their souls in front of faculty, staff, and other students, all the while having to teach themselves how to navigate a Predominantly White Institution which, we must acknowledge, was not explicitly designed for their well-being. One could even go so far as to say that they have become structural engineers of the college’s culture designing spaces within the crevices of the college’s culture to congregate and exist within. Truly, within the students of color at the college, Simon’s Rock’s mission, to show the world that there are children in the world who are capable of the intellectual and emotional maturity of an adult, has been fully realized.
In acknowledgement of the long history of hardship these students have endured as well as the additional struggles a person of color undergo in a college environment, SR Alumni of Color United [AoCU] in collaboration with The Council for Equity and Inclusion proposes that the satellite house “Red Brick” become a space for students of color to congregate, learn, relax, and form intricate and valuable communities. The proposed name for this center would be: “The Du Bois Center for Racial Equity and Empowerment”. The Du Bois Center for Racial Equity and Empowerment would serve as an intentional space for people of color to learn, grow, discuss issues of race and culture, as well as simply be.
The space would be open to racial and cultural affinity groups as well as individual community members of color. The space is not meant to exclude white members of the Simon’s Rock Community. Rather, it is meant to provide students of color with the resources, sense of safety, and community that their white peers already have. Studies show that students of color at Predominantly White Institutions are prone to dropping out or transferring at nearly double the rate of People of Color attending Minority Serving Institutions. A large reason for that figure is the stark sense of lost community that many students of color feel attending PWIs. However, by creating a cultural enclave for students of color in the form of the Du Bois Center for Racial Equity and Empowerment, we can foster that sense of community and safety that is so often neglected at other Predominantly White Institutions.
We must consider the fundamental questions we ask students of Simon’s Rock, “Why here?” and “Why now?” when considering the need for the Center. The answers each directly relate to the student experience and campus climate of the college. When considering “Why here?” or rather “why do we need a designed and intentional space for students of color?” we must understand our own obligations as Predominantly White Institution with a growing community of students of color from different walks of life in making sure that these students are provided resources for their success and development not only as academics, but as emotionally healthy young adults. The “Why now?” aspect of this narrative is unique in that the answer contradicts the present focus of the question in and of itself. There was never a time when Simon’s Rock did not need a space equivalent to this. However, with increasingly violent and bold assertions of racism and bigotry threatening our students of color, it is now more irresponsible than ever to not begin the work in creating a space for communities of color at Simon’s Rock.