Black Student Union Advisor and Academic Success Coach Calvin Monroe speaks about the strength, and courage of BIPOC students, and advice for allies who want to help.
By Riley Mulcahy
Calvin Monroe has been a vital fixture of the Saint Mary’s community for four years. As a Student Engagement and Academic Student Success Coach, Monroe interfaces with students regularly to guide students through the college process and give advice and support when needed. Before coming to Saint Mary’s, Monroe resided in Atlanta, Georgia, where he attended the Historically Black College Morehouse College, where he obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in African American studies. He then attended Georgia State University, where he received his Master’s Degree, furthering his knowledge in African American Studies. In addition to his role as an Academic Success Coach, Monroe also advises Saint Mary’s Black Student Union and is also a doctoral student at SMC, graduating next May
Monroe considers his role as an advisor to the BSU as a “joy” because he can see how Black students on campus lead and support each other. Furthermore, Monroe states that he is proud to advise the BSU due to their leadership on a campus “where feelings of being unsupported and unheard are not uncommon.”
Monroe reflects that he often “relish[es] in watching their selfless service for bettering the lives of other Black students sometimes supersedes their own. “In this role, I like to allow students to lead. I serve as the administrative point of view, offering insights into rules and regulations, or other short and long term implications to decisions, events, and activism that the leaders seek to undertake.”
In January, Monroe taught a JanTerm class called “Black Lives Matter, Approaching an Emic Approach to Communities of African Descent” which aimed to showcase the Black experience in America and abroad. Monroe states that the course was broken into four sections, 1. Living in the World as Black, 2. Within the Black Community, 3. Activism, 4. Education and the Academy.
Monroe states that “these four sections built upon one another, and students were able to truly see and understand the unique issues that face Black people everyday. Students understood that there are pressures coming from all directions, and were able to articulate pain, trauma, and triumphs of Black people. For non-Black people, there was constant articulation of ‘not knowing’ all of what Black people go through, and desiring to be more empathetic to BIPOC students, they also articulated understanding of how to be a better ally to the Black community.”
On the topic of allyship, Monroe argues that allies should be willing to do their own research about the history of racism, not just how racism is examined from a modern perspective. Additionally, Monroe states that to be a good ally, they should not only understand the effects of racism, also “how BIPOC people, no matter where they are, experience it. Once they do this, they will understand that being an ally is not a trend, but a lifelong service to helping marginalized communities.”
Also, Monroe believes “Allies should also strongly desire to speak within their own circles and families, calling out words, sentiments, and actions that hurt, neglect, or marginalize BIPOC communities,. This takes courage, but being a true ally takes courage. It is not performative, and it does not expire; it is a lifelong job.”
Monroe also realizes the reality and stresses of online schooling due to COVID and how impactful this moment has been. In a world that can feel stressful and fast-paced, Monroe believes that students should take a moment to make sure that they are taking care of themselves. Monroe says this includes working with professors and yourself to ask for and receive accommodations and not be too hard on yourself in this year of uncertainty. Monroe argues that accommodations such as extensions on assignments or being courageous and asking others to join you in study sessions can be “the difference between making progress each semester, or stalling out because you may have pushed yourself too hard.”
Monroe is an important on-campus figure for Saint Mary’s students, especially those who identify as BIPOC, who need an advocate to speak along with them.
Special thanks to Calvin Monroe for his participation in this article.
Victoria Vidales '21,