"Realities" and Defining Diversity, 1980-2015

Simmons News 9-23-93.jpg

"Realities," 1993.

As the Black Student Organization focused on community building and inclusion, conversation surrounding Blackness at Simmons College tackled more "subtle" forms of racism. Many of these conversations took place in the editorial section of The Simmons News. Black students wrote editorials on their experiences at Simmons, as well as letters to the editor, criticizing articles they found problematic. Often, these conversations displayed student disagreement on what constituted as diversity, racism, and the education of Black struggle. In 1989, a student argued that she could not “understand how when a ‘white’ person prefers to be around ‘whites,’ she is labeled as racist, but when a ‘black’ person feels ‘more comfortable with people of their own culture’ it is only natural." In 1990, another student argued that if Black students did not educate white students as to “what they are going through, [she] will continue to be ignorant.” In 1993, The Simmons News started running “Realities,” a recurring segment on race and the Simmons College community. These articles, as well as other articles concerning the Black student perspective, often met with backlash and multiple back-and-forth letters arguing over what constituted as racism or diversity throughout the early 1990s. 

These conversations about the more "subtle" forms of racism and discrimination fed into Black student frustrations with the College’s definition of “diversity.” The enrollment of Black students at Simmons declined by 50% during the 1980s, with only 144 Black students enrolling. Following this decline, Simmons prioritized the recruitment and retention of a diverse student body. 

However, many Black students found the College’s way of realizing this goal tokenizing. In the 1989 Simmons News article, “Black students tell difficulties of attending Simmons,” a student expressed annoyance that the school’s social activities catered to the wants of the white student body and did not “take into consideration” the Black members of the community. A 1993 article of The Simmons News further argued that the current level of student and administrative support available to Black students at Simmons made it seem as though diversity was College talk, not a College “quality.”

Simmons News 10-19-00.jpg

from The Simmons News, 2000.

Tension also arose in the perceived belief that the Simmons community viewed the struggles of African American, Latina, Asian, and Native American students as comparable and easily conflated. In some cases, the Black Student Organization joined forces with members of the Asian Student Association (ASA) and the Organización Latino América (OLA) to combat racism and offer solidity and support. In 1989, members of these clubs cosigned a letter to the editor objecting to The Simmons News coverage of racism at Simmons, and BSO President Kenyora Johnson wrote another letter in The Simmons News condemning a hate crime committed against a Muslim student at Simmons in 2008. 

However, despite collaboration, the groups viewed themselves as distinct, and Black students often had to defend their points of view. In both 2000 and 2001, controversy arose over the amount of security allocated to police an annual BSO Dance. Attendees also noted the use of caution tape to keep participants from wandering onto campus. Black attendees lamented this choice, as they felt it spoke of an “assumption” that whenever they got together “there was going to be a problem.” Moreover, in March 2004, the BSO had to defend their event “Soul Food Night” against accusations of stereotyping against themselves.


Reshonda Ambrose, 2002.

Student Highlight:
The President of the Black Student Organization at Simmons College, Reshonda Ambrose received her B.A. in Public Relations and Marketing from Simmons and her M.B.A. from the University of Virginia. Over the past decade, Ambrose has worked in marketing and public relations, ranging from business management to product development. Actively engaged with the Simmons community, Ambrose has held volunteer leadership roles on both the Alumnae Executive Board and the African American Alumnae Association. She also served as co-chair of the 2013 Simmons College African Alumnae/I Symposium and participated in the marketing and communications committee for Women of the Dream, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing services to enable African American girls to achieve their fullest potential. Ambrose currently works as the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the National Center for Learning Disabilities. 
"Realities" and Defining Diversity, 1980-2015