College works towards increasing campus diversity

At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, Colby President David Greene addressed the College’s faculty members and reported some changes implemented by the College to increase diversity and inclusion on campus. Greene reported that the number of students and faculty who identify as people of color has increased significantly since 2014, as well as the percentage of female faculty. He also discussed the increase in the College’s financial aid budget, which has afforded more opportunities for Pell Grant-eligible students.

During a recent interview with the Echo, Greene listed some of the ways the College has worked to diversify the communities at Colby and expressed the administration’s commitment to inclusion. 

“I felt we needed to really accelerate when I came here because we were still not fulfilling our commitment to the fullest extent. Everything that we do fundamentally comes down to creating a great educational environment. That’s our purpose,” Greene said. “Having an incredible mix of students and faculty who are here, and drawing talent from folks with all backgrounds and experiences is absolutely critical to that. It creates a richer environment, a better education, a place where people ask different questions, bring different perspectives to challenges. And that’s fundamental to who we are.” 

As part of diversifying the student population at Colby, Greene discussed the ways in which the College has worked to open doors to students from varying backgrounds. Through the Office of Admissions, the College has visited over 40 countries in the past year in an effort to expand the international population on campus. Colby staff have also reached out to more schools in urban and rural communities of the South and the West coast. As for inclusion, Greene expressed the need for systems of support available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. These support systems, according to Greene, come partly from the staff members at the College, such as Class Deans, but more importantly from the community as a whole. 

“It’s not the job of any one group. It really has to be a wholesale community effort for it to actually work well. And it often frustrates people because there’s this sense of ‘just do this, just make this happen.’ And we can do a lot of things. We can put resources in the right place and help develop structures that can be supportive of the students. But in the end, it has to be a full community effort where people see it as a fundamental value and they commit themselves to ensuring that this is truly an inclusive and diverse place,” Greene said.

The Pugh Center is possibly the largest community on campus dedicated to these issues. In recent interviews with the Echo, members of the Pugh community were asked to reflect on changes in diversity and inclusion that they’ve seen on campus.

“Walking from Dana to East I see more people of color. Last year I’d walk and I couldn’t see anyone who I could identify with. There’s a lot of people I want to meet. Last year I felt like I had already met all the people of color on campus, and now there’s people who I don’t know and it’s just really cool,” Deanna Perez `22 said.

Felicia Huerta `22, another member of the Pugh community, also acknowledged the increase in people of color and low-income students at Colby but felt that there is still a lack of financial support for low-income students in their education. 

“I think what the institution needs to realize is that poverty isn’t a temporary issue. A lot of people are coming from backgrounds where they need a little more support. The $300 book fund that you can use once in your four years is not enough. Sometimes books range from $100-200 a semester, and the process to get the funding is so rigorous,” Huerta said. 

Pugh Community Member Ashlee Guevara `21, agreeing with Huerta, added that these issues will continue to occur as long as Colby continues accepting students with financial need. She suggested that the College should make an effort to create sustainable resources for students that will last into the future.

“Other institutions have replenishable resources. For example: with textbooks every professor could have two or three extra copies of their textbook that they keep on file at the library,” Guevara said. “People could go and be able to rent books out for an hour or so. We have to think about a long-term Colby where these sorts of resources are replenishable. We have to think of sustainable ways to have other students here, not just temporary sources of funding.”

Overall, these students felt that the work of the administration and other systems at Colby need to invest more in providing resources for marginalized students. They agreed that some of the newer programs in the Pugh Center, including FLIPS (The First-Generation/Low-Income Program for Student Success), give them hope as to what Colby can be in years to come.

“The Pugh in general is improving in really remarkable ways. I feel like collectively that group [FLIPS] is just a little family. For me, seeing them so close and so comfortable with each other, it seems like they’re acclimating to Colby really nicely. They have each other’s back and it’s just so nice for me to see,” Perez said after seeing how the first-year FLIPS students have begun adjusting to Colby.

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