Students of Color United for Change
During the 1992-1993 academic year, various student organizations formed like the Students of Color United for Change (SCUC) and the Asian American Student Association (ASA). These politically active groups sought to improve the climate at Colby for students of color. One key problem was the lack of a multicultural house where students of color, as well as other students interested in a multicultural environment, could have a safe, residential space free from the micro-aggressions of daily life at Colby as well as a center for multicultural exchange.
Such a house was deemed beyond the acceptable levels of “Special Interest Housing” Colby was interested in supporting. Since the decision came to end fraternities at Colby in 1984, the notion of Special Interest Housing has been a heated topic. In 1989, the Shared Interest Housing Proposal was released. Unlike fraternities, the SIH option benefited students seeking to live in small clusters based on common interests. Yet this was far from an officially recognized multicultural house, and in the Spring of 1994 a request for ten students to live together in an existing dorm under the guidelines of the SIH Proposal was rejected.
Thus, on March 9, 1994, about 80 students attended a Campus Community Committee meeting to speak out. Their goals extended beyond the multicultural house to include better funding for minority clubs, a more diverse curriculum, and a financial aid office better suited to students’ needs.
At the March 9 meeting, President Cotter heard the students requests, which were presented with multiple potential solutions. Yet following the meeting, members of the SCUC, in tandem with the Society Organized Against Racism (SOAR) and the Student Organization for Black and Hispanic Unity (SOBHU), felt their requests were receiving minimal substantive response. The newly-formed Coalition for Political Action (CPA) began working on a number of petitions, trying to draw student support for the issues raised at the CCC meeting.
Near the end of March, President Cotter provided an official response to the demands of the SCUC. He admitted the selection process for the new Dean of Intercultural Affairs was mishandled, however Roseboro would still fill the position. He announced that a Latin American Studies Program would be available no later than the fall of 1995. He rejected the notion of increased funding for minority clubs, suggesting student groups collaborate more frequently and use their money more wisely. He said the financial aid office was in the making progress towards better serving students. In terms of multicultural housing, President Cotter expressed great concern and reservation, suggesting extensive research be put into the matter.
Shortly after Cotter’s response, on April 6, the SCUC released an open letter to the trustees restating their demand for a multicultural house/center at Colby. The next fall, on October 13, 1994, the SCUC sent a second letter, this time making a more formal proposal for a multicultural house/center, even including a sample application for residency.
In response, the Trustee Commission on Multicultural and Special Interest Housing was formed. Over the next several months, this commission sent delegates to a number of schools to study how they handle multicultural interests. The colleges that were visited included Bates, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Bryn Mawr, Amherst and Williams. Meanwhile, Colby students were widely polled and questioned as to what they felt was best for the school.
Ultimately, a final report was released in late March, 1995. The Commission concluded that the idea of a Multicultural House was Special Interest Housing and therefore not acceptable at Colby, while the idea of a Multicultural Center was approved. A new building attached to the existing student center was proposed, and in 1996, the Pugh Center officially opened as Colby’s Multicultural Center. While the idea of Multicultural Housing would again be raised during the 1999 Sit-in, particularly after the completion of the Senior Apartments and the long-standing designation of “Quiet” and “Chem-free” dorms seemed to violate the Special Interest Housing regulations at Colby, the matter would not be officially revisited until The Coalition for Institutional Accountability brought the issue to the Board of Trustees in 2002.
SCUC photo by Brian Golden. Crawford/Woodfork photo by Merrit Duff. All photos from the Colby Echo. Cartoon by Andrew Vernon, published in the Colby Echo.