Looking for ‘Common Ground’

Lindsey arceci

Opinions Editor


Karina Barriga Albring

News Editor


While many Keene State College students were still asleep at 8 a.m. on Friday morning, many soon-to-be KSC freshmen were surprised by quiet faces surrounding the doors to the Mabel Brown Room as they became witness to a silent protest organized by current KSC students.

Their demand was clear: the Office of Multiculturalism and Diversity needs more support from the college. Student-made signs that read, “Who will fight for my rights?” and, “We demand support,” said volumes for the student faces that remained silent.

emily fedorko / Photo editor KSC students gather in a peaceful protest outside the Mabel Brown Room in the Young Student Center on Friday, March 29. They demanded more support for the Multicultural Office on campus.

emily fedorko / Photo editor
KSC students gather in a peaceful protest outside the Mabel Brown Room in the Young Student Center on Friday, March 29. They demanded more support for the Multicultural Office on campus.

As one protester, former KSC student Elhadje Bah, said it, “We are having a sit-in, a peaceful protest because we believe that our office is underfunded and understaffed.”

According to these student protesters, there were a few final straws that broke their backs into taking action. The first, as many students noted, is that the school does not give the office enough financial support from the college. KSC sophomore Jessica Pierre said the students have advocated for the office themselves.

“Since the beginning of the semester, we have had meetings with the administration. We have submitted budget requests,” Pierre said. “We have realized that a lot of other organizations  receive more money than this office, and we help a lot of students.”

And when she says “a lot,” she means it. According to another student protester on Friday, sophomore Molly Vallejo, the Office of Multiculturalism and Diversity sees 40 students a day and have around 60-plus students who are associated with this office. She said that although many students come to the office to seek guidance through financial struggles, many come just to find a place where they can feel at home. Many students who come through she labeled as students who are at-needs or at-risk students, or simply feel like an outcast on campus.

“There is an absurd drop-out rate [for diversity students],” Vallejo said.

This view was echoed by another student protester, senior Chris Marion, who said that within the last three semesters alone, 28 students have dropped out of KSC because they couldn’t afford it, or because they did not feel welcome on campus.

“I know a lot of people who are bullied or hear racist comments in the DC [Dining Commons],” sophomore protester Emily Yepez said. “A lot of students are here on multiculturalism scholarships.”

Another trend among many of the protesters was that some were at KSC with the help of a scholarship that is now going to be cut, and therefore result in more money these students need to come up with to afford their tuition. But many don’t think they can continue to attend KSC if their scholarship is taken away next year.

In Vallejo’s case, she said the school told her that she would not be able to receive her multiculturalism scholarship next year and would therefore need to apply for an independent loan outside of the school. What many people may not know is that if a student is not at least 24 years of age, they cannot apply for, or receive an independent loan without a parent or cosigner of legal age. For students who may not even have a cosigner  to help them receive the loan, they don’t know how they can continue to pay for undergraduate school, and this included several students participating in the protest.

Students like Vallejo who are bi-racial help encourage diversity and multiculturalism on campus, especially on a campus that, as Vallejo put it, consists of primarily white individuals.

“People don’t understand how important it is to have different backgrounds coming to the school with such a primarily white campus,” Vallejo said.

The silent protest was also partially a reaction to the recent news that the office’s only full-time staff member who works with students daily, Colber Prosper, is resigning. According to Marion, Prosper was the third staff member to work in this office in the last three years, but he is the first to work full-time.

“I have a lot of respect for [Prosper], he works hard for students,” Marion said. “He puts in 60 to 70 hours a week. He’s like the office’s president, treasurer, and secretary all in one.”

According to the Chief Officer for Multiculturalism and Diversity Dottie Morris, she knows that students are asking for more support by means of more people in the office. She said that Prosper’s position, which is the coordinator of the multicultural office, was created two years ago.

“Colber is the first person to be there full-time. Before, there was only a half-time person,” Morris added. “By having him full time, it became a 100 percent increase in the number of hours that people were available.”

She also said that in regards to financial support, the office receives support from many places on campus.

“Part of what has happened is that everything is not centralized in the same place. For example, something that is done in Academic Affairs that is related to Diversity, then that [support] comes from there,” Morris said. “There are programs being put on by other departments to contribute to awareness and support diversity.”

Although she agrees that more funding would be amazing. “There are people on campus that are working diligently to ensure that that happens. Everyone from Advancement, Finance and Planning are working to raise money,” Morris said. “Just yesterday [March 28] we received a small scholarship for Diversity.”

Morris agreed with students who said concerned students and staff have met with administration about the budget and office.

“We met with Vice President for Student affairs, Andy Robinson, myself and some students just before spring break. The minutes from this meeting were made available to students, cabinet members, and provosts. Then spring break happened and we didn’t have a meeting so I am unclear about why the students [protesting] say there hasn’t been a response from the college,” Morris said.

She supports the students who organized the silent protest, and admits that maybe she has not communicated well with these individuals. “There are so many initiatives that have been put on, and they are not only localized in one place. If there is something that we have done wrong it’s not communicating well all the things that are going on,” Morris said. “I have to take responsibility for not putting that out there enough for students to know everything that is being done.”


Lindsey Arceci can be contacted 

at larceci@keene-equinox.com 


Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at kbarriga@keene-equinox.com

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