The room was full of students, faculty, and staff. But it was not the traditional set up of rows of chairs, with a speaker at a podium up front. This event was different, and everyone would leave with a different mindset. Male students stood in the front or the room, dressed in button up shirts and ties, while other students were scattered throughout ready to engage in a nontraditional discussion on toxic masculinity. A series of questions were asked and each time, participants were asked to move to the side of the room with which they either strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with the given statement. As the statement changed, individuals in the room physically shifted and so did their mindset on the subject of masculinity.
Springfield College Student Activities office heads many different clubs and organizations on campus. This institution has an open policy where if one wants to start a club that does not already exist, he or she has the ability to do so. With this idea in mind, the club Men of Excellence (MOE) was started by Khalil Content in the 2018 fall semester. With the support of Dr. Calvin Hill, Vice President for Inclusion and Community Engagement, MOE was started with the goal to give men on campus a safe space to discuss social justice issues happening not only in the world, but on the Springfield College campus.
Creating this club did not come without obstacles. One barrier that MOE initially faced was proving to Director of Student Activities and Campus Union Annie Warchol that the club was not similar to a fraternity. Starting an all-male club, who referred to themselves as “brothers,” could conceivably raise a red flag. Greek life has been banned from the Springfield College campus for many years.
MOE Vice President Marcelino Diaz feels that the club is a brotherhood but is in no way similar to a fraternity.
“There is a fine line as to what a fraternity and a brotherhood is and we’re not that fraternity, but we do want to support our brothers…” said Diaz. “We want to be there for them whenever they need somebody to lean on.”
The mission of MOE is for men to feel valued, important, and supported by other men on campus. The club shares a set of values and morals, but still differs drastically from a traditional fraternity.
Although Student Activities had concerns initially, MOE has received a large backing from certain faculty members on campus. Dr. David Rudder, Associate Dean for the School of Professional and Continuing Studies, has stepped up as the advisor of MOE, and is the reason why many members have joined.
The father figure role he plays in the lives of MOE members is precisely what lead Diaz to join. He describes Rudder as “a great advisor who serves as a coach, someone to push you to be great.”
Rudder is not alone. Three male faculty of color on the Springfield College campus have supported the efforts of MOE. Dr. Calvin Hill was the first to assist with getting the club off the ground. Dr. Anthony Hill, Professor of Social Work, has led numerous events on toxic masculinity for the members of MOE.
Some may think that this number is low, and that male students of color need more people to look up to. But Diaz believes that these three faculty members are more than enough.
“They allow for their voices to be heard. Dr. Calvin Hill, Dr. Anthony Hill, and Dr. Rudder are all male faculty supportive of the club and do whatever is necessary to make sure that we are getting the proper resources and have the opportunity to put on these events,” said Diaz.
Of course, seeing more faculty of color on campus would be wonderful in every aspect. But Diaz and Stewart encourage their members to appreciate the faculty that they do have. They want the members of MOE to know that Dr. Calvin Hill, Dr. Anthony Hill, and Dr. Rudder are valuable resources on this campus that want to see them succeed.
Although it has a very short history, MOE has begun making a large impact on the Springfield College campus by hosting numerous events around sexual assault, toxic masculinity, and gender roles in society. The club wants to provide a space for students to express themselves in a safe space around other students who may have dealt with similar experiences. With that concept in mind, MOE is open to anyone on campus, although its members consist mostly of students of color. At first, members were mostly just friends, but now, the club has begun to reach out to a larger spectrum.
MOE President Valmore Stewart believes the club has struggled to appeal to white students because of the topics that it often discusses. Stewart added, “A lot of people think if they aren’t affected, then it doesn’t matter to them, and that’s the problem.” Regardless of one’s personal background, MOE wants all students to feel welcome to attend its club meetings and events.
Despite the fact that both Stewart and Diaz will be entering their senior year next semester, they have high hopes for the future of MOE. Even after they graduate, the two want MOE to continue to flourish, allowing a space for all students to feel comfortable. During their senior year, they plan to focus on making sure MOE has a long-lasting legacy. In order to do that, members plan to continue to promote their club in a way that appeals to all underclassmen.
No matter who is on the E-board or who the advisor of Men of Excellence is, it is important for members of the club to realize the true value they bring to the Springfield College community, and to the entire world.