Creating A New Space for Students of Color
Nam Phuong Doan ‘18
As an attempt to create more non-classroom spaces for students of color, Lydia Brassard ‘08, the College’s Director of Institutional Diversity & Inclusion, hosts the POC (People of Color) Study Hall at the CAPA Faculty Lounge every Wednesday from 3PM to 5PM.
According to Brassard, the idea of a study hall comes from the College’s aspiration to have a consistent space for students to come together and do various things outside a structural classroom setting–– “laugh, gossip, doodle, snack, play music, and just be”––without the dependence on students to organize and/or feel pressure to attend. “The space is always there every Wednesday 3–5 PM, whether a student comes each week, once a term, or never at all. I try to be there as often as I can, but sometimes I have meetings or have to be off campus,” said Brassard.
Although called “the study hall,” the space’s name is subject to adjustment. Whether the students choose to bring work to do or not, the conversations started in the study hall will be a facilitator for community building. At the moment, the space is a POC affinity space (broadly defined), because Brassard thinks that it is important for students of color at Bennington College, a heterogenous group, to have a place that is exclusively for them to share with and care for each other, as well as grow together, emotionally and intellectually.
The POC Study Hall is open to anyone who identifies as POC, whether they are students, staff, or faculty members. Brassard said that there was currently no agenda to the weekly gathering but she would be happy to have someone propose a topic or host an activity, such as screening movies or making group playlists.
“My approach to inclusion––promoting belonging and cultivating efficacy for each student on campus––is flexible and adaptive to students’ wants and needs,” stated Brassard. Moving forward, she hopes to work with students to develop more spaces and systems besides the Study Hall that can provide the community with support and growth.