By Damon Markiewicz

In a showcase of commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at Springfield College, the second annual A Day to Confront Racism event was recently hosted on the campus featuring presentations that denounce racism, power, privilege, and prejudice.

As part of the programming for the day, student researchers Sabrina Williams ’21 and Sabrina Moore, Class of 2023, presented on their work as part of a Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) grant project that looked at uncovering the student-led protests of 1969-70. Williams and Moore have been researching the background of the nine demands that were issued by students to College administration in February 1969. They expanded on how these demands from students led to campus-wide tensions between activists and administration, eventually resulting in protests and two building takeovers. In addition, they expounded upon their own experiences with the project and its eventual impact on the current culture of Springfield College.

“As a result of being a part of a team with different perspectives and opinions, I have matured into a better leader who can advocate for myself, which also helped me enormously,” said Moore. “Being a part of the CIC grant project helped me strengthen my communication, organization, and writing skills, which I have applied to my academics and the many activities I participate in within the College community.” 

In 2020, the College experienced activism from students of color, with demands and protests almost reiterating those issued decades ago. Williams’ main role throughout this project consisted of interviewing protestors and community members, as well as conducting interviews with current student activists.

“This project and my overall experience on campus has impacted my life in a significant way,” said Williams. “I was able to find my passion through my activism as well as through my research in this project. This research has provided me with the opportunity to appreciate the experience of the Legacy Alumni of Color Group as well as the students of color across the nation during the late 60s early 70s. This project has highlighted my decision to dedicate my future career to social justice and equity. I know there will always be space for this work and I am looking forward to being in these spaces.”

Honoring the Founding Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs

Since 2016, the Springfield College Student Society for Bridging Diversity (SSBD) has honored the life and work of John M. Wilson, the founding director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and long-time advisor of SSBD, with the annual Legacy Ball on the campus. Wilson passed away in 2015 after being a constant on the campus for more than 30 years. He worked tirelessly to make the College an accepting place for all students. Whether it was heading up programming, or advising a club, Wilson’s presence was felt all about the campus.

“Through this annual celebration of life, the SSBD celebrates and models an inclusive community through fellowship, the arts, and honoring those champions of inclusion in our community,” said Springfield College Director of Spiritual Life David McMahon, who is the faculty/staff advisor for SSBD and also worked very closely with Wilson during his time on Alden Street. “A night when friends of all backgrounds gather and enjoy everyone’s creativity, dignity, and achievement, this celebration embodies Mr. Wilson’s spirit.”

Togetherness was always the buzzword when it came to Wilson’s extensive career as the multicultural affairs director. He worked so well with students one-on-one, and recognized that there was a real need for students of color to have support. When Wilson passed away, the SSBD started the legacy ball as a way to honor Wilson and keep his spirit alive.

“Wilson’s strength was sitting down with students, understanding them, understanding their needs, and understanding their strengths,” added McMahon. He would personally connect with them, and assist them with whatever they needed.”

The legacy ball raises proceeds for the John M. Wilson Scholarship Fund, which consists of book scholarships awarded to current students during both the fall and spring semesters. The scholarships are awarded to current Springfield College full-time students who are entering their sophomore, junior, or senior year of study.

“It’s difficult to measure one person’s influence, but with John, I think it’s clear that he saw his role as an advocate for students, and that drove him every day,” said Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper. “I think all students need an advocate, and all students need to know that they’re valued, and somebody cares about them. John’s gift was his ability to let other people know that he cared about them, and that they were important.”