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Brockport struggles with diversity

by Brianna Bush - Editor-in-Chief
Tue, Feb 18th 2020 01:00 pm
Students gathered in support of Cephas Archie on Friday, Jan. 24, following his dismissal from the college. Photo Credit: Marios Argitis/ Photo Editor
Students gathered in support of Cephas Archie on Friday, Jan. 24, following his dismissal from the college. Photo Credit: Marios Argitis/ Photo Editor

In the last few weeks, The College at Brockport has come under review in regards to diversity after the firing of Cephas Archie, Ph.D., as well as a Charge of Discrimination filed by Executive Assistant to the Vice President Victoria Elsenheimer.

Since Friday, Jan. 24,  The College at Brockport has been met with multiple complaints failed against it in regards to discrimination. Starting that Friday, Archie was fired from his position and escorted from his office — from there, a chain of events followed.

When the student body learned of Archie’s firing, leaders of organizations and clubs on campus came together to protest and ask for any reason as to why he was relieved from his position. Many students had an advisor/mentor relationship with Archie as well.

“He contacted me personally, checked up on me personally over the break,” President of Inter-Greek Council, Advisor of Men of Color (MOC) and Secretary of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Daniel Jimenez said. “He always tried to keep me up on my grades — he pulled my grades and would let me know where I’m slipping up.”

Jimenez and Archie collaborated on MOC events in 2018-19, such as Brockport Night Out, the Unity Trip and the Diversity Conference. The Unity Trip was one of Archie’s Initiatives.

Archie also helped initiate the Name Change Process, Bias Reporting System/Team, Interfaith Council, Lavender Ceremony, Gender Neutral Bathrooms, the CDO Cultural Address and many more — this list was compiled by students Archie had connected with.

Students continue to question why Archie was released from his position. Students like Zack Perkins had a close student/advisor relationship with Archie. Perkins supported Archie on Twitter, tweeting out pictures that were sent to him by Archie of an office that he was put in by the college.

In the pictures, you can clearly see that the office was in poor shape. Many of the light fixtures had insects in them that were clearly visible. In one image, a dead cockroach is visible on the floor. Perkins expressed his feelings on Archie’s firing, asking why he was put in such conditions.

“In the following pictures you will see the conditions in which Dr. Archie was expected to work and ‘perform’ under,” Perkins wrote. “These pictures were taken the day he moved from his original office, to a new building temporarily, as his ‘new office was built.’ There were roaches on the floor, bugs in the lights, minimal to no office equipment and horrifyingly there laid a note which simply said: ‘Stay.’”

Perkins then asked how the college expected anyone to perform or do their jobs under such conditions.

“Nonetheless [Archie] continued to work feverishly at his job, sacrificing so much for the students here; ALL of the students,” Perkins continued. “Dr. Cephas Archie stood for one message on this campus during his time here, and that was ‘to bring all people together, regardless of race, gender, identity or religion.’’

Before the Town Hall meeting, many students and faculty had known about Archie’s dismissal most of the afternoon on Friday, Jan. 24. The college had not released the first statement until 4 p.m. the next day, confirming Archie’s firing.

In light of the student complaints, President Heidi Macpherson released a campus-wide statement via email which referenced the Town Hall meeting.

“What I heard was that you need faculty, staff and administrators who look like you,” Macpherson wrote. “You need mentors who believe and care about you. You need us to take seriously our stated commitments to equity, diversity and inclusion. I hear you and I am committed to your success as students at Brockport. I know we must do more.”

Macpherson will be working closely with interim CDO and Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Lorraine Acker Ph.D. to find a permanent CDO for The College at Brockport. 

There are still many questions that go unanswered, and students wait anxiously for answers. 

On Monday, Feb. 3, Archie, alongside Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, broke his silence by going on air with WDKX in a podcast. Archie spoke of his previous position at a Texas Institution, the 10th most diverse institution in the world, according to Archie.

The podcast gave Archie the opportunity to shed some insight on his side of the situation, giving his “gratitude to all the communities that have all stood up and have been true witnesses to the work we have done.” 

With every decision Archie and his staff at the time made, they would ask “who is missing for an opportunity from the table?” This allowed Archie to open up a bigger discussion and allow more inclusion.

According to an article published by the Democrat & Chronicle, “Macpherson said it will be important for the college leadership to listen; make sure we can hear things that may be hard to hear.”’ 

Warren has also been very open on social media about her opinions on the college, not agreeing with the decision to dismiss Archie.

“It’s unfortunate when the people working toward diversity and inclusion across the collegiate spectrum also face it themselves,” Warren wrote on Facebook.

There are still many questions left unanswered, and The Stylus will continue to provide coverage on this story if and when new information is available.

Photo of the Week

Taken by Vincent Croce:
Staff Photographer

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