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A Change is Gonna Come

Ashley S Torkornoo, C'22

Fall at the Mount

In the midst of troubling times, Sam Cooke wrote and recorded his most notable song "A Change is Gonna Come." That title must have been a hard sell during the time of Bloody Sunday, a day that has gone down in history as one of the darkest days for the civil rights movement. Through the darkness, that song lit a flame of hope that after all of the death, pain, and suffering, one day a change is gonna come. 

It’s no secret that the last few years at the Mount have been subjected to racial tension. The university’s diversity has been growing each year, and that is a good thing. But during the same time, our nation has become more polarized than in years prior. I like to think of the Mount as a microcosm of society. The city on a hill, as Winthrop would put it. The good, the bad, and the ugly happen on the campus for the world to see. And in recent years with the former presidency and the growth of movements like Black Lives Matter, the ugly became more visible. 

To be transparent, returning to the Mount during Fall 2020 invoked fear in me. The racism that has been inflicted on students of color has been one of the university’s biggest skeletons in the closest. Stories of KKK pamphlets being distributed under dormitory doors and nooses hung through POC-dominated residential floors have been passed down from senior students of color to incoming ones. All of this came boiling to the surface during the 2020 presidential election. What once was unspoke became loud and unavoidable. Protests were led on campus and petitions were signed by current students, alumni, and faculty. And I will proudly admit I was one of them. The ugliness of white supremacy had to be confronted, and Mount St. Mary’s confronted it.

The day before fall break I got a pleasant surprise under my cottage door, a sheet that provided names and contacts of people I can reach out to if I experience racial discrimination, sexual harassment, or other marginalized treatment on campus. As a senior, this was the first time I’ve ever been provided the information before an incident that would prompt its necessity occurred. Though this gesture was probably looked over by many, to me it meant a lot. Because if my fears became reality last fall, I wouldn’t have known who I could reach out to other than my RA. And when something like this did happen my sophomore year, my RA was the only person I could contact. Though my RA did an amazing job handling the conflict, they too are a student, and what if my RA was actually the problem? To have provided resources to students in advance is a step in the right direction, and I am happy to see the university take such initiative so that every student knows where they can go. 

With Halloween right around the corner, I was also pleased to see the Mount’s costume checklist that urged students to think twice about potential offensive costumes. Students who have celebrated Halloween at the Mount in prior years can definitely recall some offensive costumes that reached the extreme cases of Blackface. Though the institution cannot be held directly to blame for individual students’ actions, especially when it happens off-campus, the institution being vocal about its disapproval of such actions and taking steps to educate the student body is more than I can ask for. 

These small actions that many students may have not even noticed communicated to me that maybe a change is gonna come; that the institution acknowledges its shortcomings and is taking active measures to hold faculty and students accountable while fostering an environment where students of color can feel safe and be heard. As a black woman who is a legacy student and has attended this university for the past four years, the Mount has drastically changed and it's for the better. So maybe, the change is already here.

Ashley S Torkornoo, C'22