Through the Social Justice Initiative, they hosted spaces where students could talk freely about discrimination and advocated for curriculum reform, sensitivity training for faculty, and a cultural education center that would eventually be known as the Days-Massolo Center (DMC).
In celebration of the DMC’s 10th anniversary, the SJI leaders returned to Hamilton for a recent panel discussion where they shared stories of their past work.
The SJI built upon work and activism already happening on campus. The group connected with former students who had struggled and fought for a safer campus climate for underrepresented students. “We had a real dependency on those who been through Hamilton and Kirkland colleges,” Hicks explained. “And the women and men who felt marginalized.”
“I know for a lot of us,” Gibson added, “during our meetings, we actually looked at other colleges. What are they doing to really engage with their students of color?”
The SJI also worked with organizations on campus already pushing for change, such as the Black and Latinx Student Center and La Vanguardia. “We were really building on the existing cultural groups that were at Hamilton,” Lippold said.
SJI members made it a priority to keep their messages at the forefront as students graduated and new ones followed. They fought to make sure spaces such as the Womyn’s Center continued. “We needed to leave evidence of what we did,” Tannenbaum said. “It’s why so many of us spent our senior year writing up our history.” Their names are engraved on a plaque in the DMC to acknowledge that their legacy hasn’t been forgotten.
“It was never about our four years … it was about how is this going to positively impact every student who will come after us,” Tafur added.
The panelists explained how a big part of what made SJI work was the friendships they cultivated. They were able to sustain their advocacy because of the strengths of their beliefs and the love they had for each other. “I felt like this group of people was my family at Hamilton,” Bancroft said. “These people definitely had my back.”
“Everything we were doing was about love in terms of helping those who were marginalized,” Hicks said while sharing what the SJI has meant to him. “And love is radical and sacrificial.”