On Feb. 22, St. Mary’s faculty, staff, and students were granted a day where they could address the issue of race and stereotypes and participate in discussions and workshops on campus.
As President Joe Urgo explained in a school email, the campus community was asked to “spend the day envisioning our collective future and addressing core community issues of personal identity and the evolving nature of interpersonal and intercultural relations on campus.” St. Mary’s Day began with morning discussions in the Great Room and continued in the afternoon in Aldom Lounge and in Montgomery Hall.
The morning discussions consisted of faculty and students talking about the strategic aims of the college. The topics that were presented were “Affordability and Accessibilty,” “Academic Rigor,” “Sustainability,” and “Community Wellness.”
In Montgomery Hall 25, students reprised a performance of “St. Mary’s Hear and Now.” Director and writer Caleen Sinnette Jennings and her husband were there to present the play and the mini documentary that accompanied it. The play addressed racism, generalizations, acceptance, and facing our fears through song, poetry, and monologues. The cast gave updates on what had changed since they were first featured in “St. Mary’s Hear and Now” during the fall semester. After answering profound questions from the audience, the cast and those in attendance closed out with the “River Song,” an original piece from the play written by Jennings.
The day continued with film screenings in Cole Cinema followed by discussions and a workshop in Aldom Lounge led by Angela Johnson, Associate Professor of Educational Studies. The workshop was titled, “How to Act with Integrity in a Racially Unjust Society” and involved the participants discussing their experiences with race and how to deal with peers who make derogatory comments. “It was great that everyone came and participated. Not just students, not just professors, which makes us different from other colleges,” said Maggie Schmidt, a sophomore student who enjoyed Johnson’s workshop.
Barrett Emerick, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, also led a discussion about the survey he gave the St. Mary’s community on what it’s like to be them on this campus. The discussion began with a few students reading the anonymous surveys aloud to the audience. After hearing varied and personal experiences with racial issues, Emerick proposed the question, “What comes next?” The audience gave their opinions on the matter which ranged from discussing the issue further to ignoring race altogether. Many believed that those who are guilty of being racially intolerant should undergo certain training sessions to show them the consequences of their actions.
Many in attendance at the activities of St. Mary’s Day believed it to be a good experience. Junior Jacob Hancock, a student in attendance at “St. Mary’s Hear and Now,” said, “It is important for the SMCM community to open up and to break down barriers.”
Fellow student Adebisi Tiamiyu also felt that St. Mary’s Day touched on important issues. “It brought problems to surface, but the issues are much larger and run deeper.” St. Mary’s Day ended with a budget presentation by Urgo and Tom Botzman, Vice President for Business and Finance.