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Open conversation: Brockport community voices concerns over firing of CDO

by Brianna Bush | Editor-in-Chief
Tue, Jan 28th 2020 01:00 pm
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On Friday, Jan. 24, students of The College at Brockport gathered in the Seymour College Union in solidarity, after hearing Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), Cephas Archie, Ph.D., was fired. Once gathered, the students proceeded to march peacefully to College President Heidi Macpherson’s house.

During the protest, chants of “we see you” and “we need the truth” could be heard down the streets. The students continued to march and chant in front of Macpherson’s house, doing laps up and down the sidewalk. 

To keep the students and community members safe, University Police blocked off sections of the road, controlling the number of cars passing through the street. Eventually, students were directed to the Tower Fine Arts parking lot, where they continued to chant, with some members giving speeches about Archie.

Director of the Educational Opportunity Program (EDO) Gary Owens spoke to the group of students who had gathered in front of the Union after making their way back onto campus.

“I have never been so proud of you than I am tonight,” Owens commented in relation to the peaceful protest that had occurred minutes prior.

Some students remained at the Union after the protest was over, discussing what had occurred and speculating why Archie had been relieved of his position at the college. 

The next day, Saturday, Jan. 25, the college released a campus-wide email that highlighted diversity programs the college had initiated as well as informed the campus that Archie was released from his position. The email also mentioned an interim CDO being chosen while the college searches for a permanent one. 

To give students and community members an opportunity to ask questions in regards to Archie’s separation from the college, Macpherson scheduled a town hall meeting that was held last night, Monday, Jan. 27. On the same day, Macpherson announced Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Lorraine Acker would be interim CDO.

After the introductions of Macpherson, Acker and moderator Helen Cheves, students lined up behind the microphones to ask their questions.

Jerry Thompson, a student at the college, spoke on behalf of his fellow students — reading from a list. He asked the president if it was true Archie was present in support of her accepting the ATHENA award the night prior to his firing, which Macpherson confirmed.

Many students and members of the community asked similar questions in regards to Archie’s dismissal. Some of the people who stood shared statements rather than questions. Adrianna Thrasher shared her personal experience of bias, explaining how Archie inspired her.

“Dr. Archie inspired me,” Thrasher said. “He gave me a voice at the table when a lot of people on this campus preferred to silence me. I filed bias reports — many of them — but the people who often investigated the reports were often bias themselves.”

Thrasher continued to tell the president how Archie had impacted her life.

“When someone like Dr. Archie is gone, I feel like the champion for people like me is gone,” Thrasher said. “And when you send out an email that says that it is in the best long term interest for the college, I don’t believe it.”

Thrasher continued to explain why she believed in Archie and believed in what he did for her.

“I came here; I had no safety school because when I read the Better Community Statement, I was inspired and when I saw that man speak I believed,” Thrasher said.

Macpherson thanked Thrasher for her contribution to the meeting and asked Thrasher to help her and Acker to move forward through the transition. 

Many students and members of the Brockport community are calling for Archie’s reinstatement, including Owens, but the college has yet to confirm or deny if they are willing to restore Archie’s position at the college.

The Stylus will provide more updates on the dismissal of Archie when more information becomes available.

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