By Chris Bulfinch ’18
Brightly colored pieces of paper were posted around campus on the night of Sunday, Dec. 4 detailing 13 demands that a student group identifying themselves as the “Action Coalition of Trinity” were making of President Berger-Sweeney and Trinity’s administration. The posting of the flyers was followed up on Monday, Dec. 5 with a meeting between concerned students and President Berger-Sweeney in the Cave.
The demands, pictured later in this article, address a broad variety of issues, many of which have been discussed publicly before. Some of the demands echo sentiments expressed at previous demonstrations such as the Solidarity rally last November, which occurred on the heels of unrest at the University of Missouri in the fall of 2015. The demands also highlight Trinity’s efforts to become a sanctuary campus.
The Action Coalition of Trinity (ACT) is, according to their Facebook page, “a student-led group acting against the perpetuation of oppressive structures, and fighting for support of all identity groups at Trinity College.” This mission entails “fighting against sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, hetropatriarchy, classism and other forms of discrimination.” A hashtag has been started by the group, “#IsTrinWithUs?” whose Twitter page was created this month. The Facebook page promises future demonstrations.
The group appears to have formed in the last few weeks.
In response to the ubiquitous flyer’s demands and its providing a deadline of Friday to take action, President Berger-Sweeney, along with Jason Rojas, Trinity’s Director of Community Relations, and Karla Spurlock-Evans Trinity’s Dean of Multicultural Affairs, Senior Diversity, and Title IX coordinator, met with ACT representatives in the Cave. In a wide-ranging discussion, President Berger-Sweeney listened attentively to students relating stories of insensitivity, discrimination, profound discomfort, and disillusionment with the culture of Trinity. Some students who spoke broke into tears.
The ACT’s demands were also discussed at length. The issues of diversity amongst the faculty, diversity training for faculty, staff, and students, and gender-neutral bathrooms were particularly contentious issues: President Berger-Sweeney affirmed her support for the majority of the demands, reflecting that the College was already working on initiatives to address some of the demands. She pushed back on the demand that Trinity’s faculty become 50 percent people of color as infeasible, and explained her view on the complexities of implementing gender-neutral bathrooms; this sentiment drew strong reaction from the assembled students.
President Berger-Sweeney briefly addressed each of the demands, pausing often as students interjected, sharing perspective or offering suggestions. Ultimately, her busy schedule did not allow her to address the entire list; Dean Spurlock-Evans continued the discussion after President Berger-Sweeney’s departure. Trinity’s administration made overtures to continue the discussion, disseminating contact information and committing to future meetings with concerned students.
In addition to the flyers and meeting with President Berger-Sweeney, the ACT composed a letter to the administration elaborating upon their demands.
By Chris Bulfinch ’18