On Friday, September 23, a community discussion regarding the two-year anniversary of the 2014 sit-in was held at the Africana, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center. The 2014 sit-in, began by the Association of Critical Collegians (ACC), was a protest that aimed to draw attention to issues within Colgate’s campus climate and the marginalization of certain groups of people. Last week’s discussion in memory of the sit-in sought to address the three following questions: What does progress look like? How has Colgate changed since the sit-in held in 2014? And what kind of community is possible?
The discussion was well-attended by members of the Colgate community, with students and faculty members, including President Brian Casey, in attendance. Senior Sharon Nicol encouraged attendees to write questions or statements on Post-It notes that they wished to address about the sit-in or the current campus climate.
The first question posed to the participants was, “How do you think the sit-in has affected Colgate thus far?”
Senior Michael Chavinda described how the sit-in orchestrated by the Association of Critical Collegians (ACC) has positively impacted life at Colgate.
“[At the time of the protest] the Yik Yak posts were pretty bad,” Chavinda said. “You couldn’t really tell anyone that you weren’t happy at Colgate because they’d tell you [that] you weren’t being grateful for your education. I think that you can be genuinely honest about your opinions now.”
While Chavinda’s comment expressed a positive viewpoint of the current campus climate resulting from the sit-in, other individuals
focused on how Colgate still remains unchanged today.
Senior Alexis Beamon discussed the ways in which the protest failed to create any lasting change on the attitude and outlook of Colgate’s student body.
“This campus is back to where it was two years ago,” Beamon said. “Just because people have become more sensitive and learned how to use ‘–isms,’ like racism and classism, doesn’t mean they’ve changed.”
Senior Onyeka Nwabunnia expressed her disappointment with the lack of change she has seen two years after the sit-in.
“It’s such an unfortunate reality,” Nwabunnia said. “The administration still accepts the same ignorant people, and [Colgate] still teaches the same curriculum.”
The next question posed by an attendee was, “How has the 21-point action plan changed things?” This question referred to the 21-point plan the administration agreed to, in collaboration with the ACC, as a means of addressing issues brought up during the sit-in.
Senior David Jordan addressed this question by expressing his dissatisfaction with the administration’s response to the sit-in and the demands of the ACC.
“The 2014 sit-in was a series of incomplete conversations,” Jordan said. “It is a terribly frustrating experience. I am bothered by how many people [at Colgate] are so blissfully ignorant.”
Women’s Studies Program Assistant Allie Fry stated why she thought that such a rigid plan would not remedy Colgate’s deeply divided social climate.
“I am new to Colgate, so I wasn’t here for the sit-in, but the 21-point plan was basically a checklist, which is so impersonal,” Fry said. “Checklists are made for things that need to be completed and forgotten about.”
In addition to answering the questions posed by their peers throughout the open discussion, attendees told anecdotes and stories about social, racial and class-related inequalities that they have witnessed at Colgate. These comments and stories were often accompanied with tears, anger and exasperation.
Many students expressed that Colgate’s campus can often feel inhospitable in various ways.
Senior Hailey Biscow argued that the issues experienced by so many people at Colgate are directly linked to flaws in campus culture.
“The fact that we even have a ‘Colgate Hello’ initiative is indicative of the fact that there are problems on this campus,” Biscow said. “It’s important for me to think about connecting with individuals beyond just asking [someone] ‘Hi, how are you?’ and not [actually] listening to his or her response, and through helping [others] to realize their personal power and value.”
Although she was initially unsettled by the tense conversation, senior Zoe Smith was ultimately inspired by the discussion to facilitate widespread change on Colgate’s campus.
“The conversation about the sit-in two years later was a reminder that, although the protest was powerful, our community must do more to combat issues of inequality on campus,” Smith said. “As a white student, I felt the weight of my complacency during the sit-in and its aftermath.”
Despite the tense nature of the discussion, Smith felt that reflecting on the sit-in’s limited results was worthwhile.
“It was a charged and unsettling conversation, and many people left feeling discouraged. But for me, it was still productive; it made me contemplate my position at Colgate and motivated me to challenge it,” Smith said.