Students got the Goshen College administration’s attention when they marched out of chapel to demand changes regarding racism on campus on Wednesday, March 21.
As students left the chapel, a tunnel formed to guide people toward the Adelphian Fountain. There, members of the Intercultural Coalition of Goshen College (ICGC) read anonymously submitted stories of racism on campus. The mission statement of the coalition and a summary of the resolutions being presented to the president were also read.
Four leaders from ICGC walked up to President Stoltzfus’s office to give her the resolutions as well as a T-shirt and button that read “Stand with Us.” President Stoltzfus then joined the students at the fountain and shared a few words.
“One thing I know about this community is that it is not perfect, but I hope that today helps us take more steps to being more honest and being in a new depth of conversation about the Goshen College community and the Goshen College experience that we want to create together,” said President Stoltzfus. “Be assured that I take your actions and your words very seriously and I am committed to continuing this conversation with you. I thank you for your honesty and your leadership.”
The resolution included a request for mandatory anti-racism training for students as well as professors, coaches and teacher’s assistants. Other requests were for “more awareness and increased accountability for the racial misconduct team” and to “revisit the recruitment process as it pertains to athletes and international students to increase transparency concerning campus culture.”
“We are doing this not just for ourselves. We are doing this for all the people of color who will walk after us both named and unnamed,” said Achieng Agutu, a senior and a leader of ICGC. “We are doing this because we want to see a new Goshen College and a new space where people can feel safe and themselves and at home. We’re glad that we’re doing this and are thankful so much for President Stoltzfus supporting us.”
“I’m feeling really proud of our student body. Even if they came just to say that they were a part of it. I’m glad that there’s people here,” said Alia Byrd, a junior and a leader of ICGC, about the walkout. “I’m thankful to our faculty who put their jobs on the line to say that no one should have to compromise their racial identity for their education, career or anything else. I’m grateful to administration for being willing to hear us as students. And I’m hopeful to the changes that are coming to Goshen College for it to become a more inclusive and equitable environment where all students feel welcomed and safe.”
The ICGC is a group that recently formed on campus. The leaders represent various groups like the Black Student Union (BSU), Latino Student Union (LSU) and International Student Club (ISC). Their mission statement aims “to unify the efforts of the [LSU, ISC and BSU] to promote an inclusive environment on campus as well as to create a space for ourselves within the broader Goshen community.”
ICGC held a meeting Monday, March 19 to invite the broader campus community to join their actions. In the future, they also plan on holding a town hall meeting.
“The coalition started as a reaction to various racist incidents on campus. It aims to unify the efforts of students in order to make Goshen a truly inclusive and diverse campus,” said Yazan Meqbil, a junior and one of the leaders of ICGC.
Meqbil said he had spoken to the previous president and other administration but action had not been taken following those conversations. The walkout was a response to the lack of action.
“One of the concerns I brought up in that meeting was, ‘What if I was attacked?’ Then, a year later, an incident happened that translated my concerns into an action,” said Meqbil.
Through talking to other students, he began to hear about other incidents on campus.
Meqbil and other students felt they had been tricked by the image of GC presenting itself as a diverse community compared with their reality on campus. Part of the coalition’s goal is to make the recruitment process more transparent, especially for athletes and international students.
“We’ve been trying identify problems on campus for the six months or so. Throughout conversations with students, faculty and different people, we realized that anti-racism training is necessary and needed,” said Meqbil in a later meeting.
“We’re sick of talking and there’s not going to be any more talking. It’s mostly action and holding everybody accountable,” said Meqbil. “The coalition is not just for students of color; it’s for all students and it aims to unify all of our efforts to make Goshen College a truly diverse campus.”