UC/BSU Alumni Panel Shares Experiences, Offers Insight to Students

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Kaitlyn Tambasco, Assistant News Editor

On April 24, faculty, staff and students gathered in MacFarlane Auditorium for a panel discussion titled “The Black Student Experience at UC: Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going.” The event was moderated by UC alumna Ci Ci Holloway ‘79.

The panel was comprised of Utica College and Black Student Union (BSU) alumni Oliver Perry ‘74, Janice Miles ‘74 and Ron Spratling ‘71.

Holloway asked the panelists questions, such as where they grew up, how they got to Utica College and their experience with the BSU.

Spratling said when he was at UC, every black student at the school was a member of the BSU. He also explained that there was also a sense of loneliness. However, he thanked the college for teaching him to work with others.

“I’ve learned a lot from both the faculty and students at UC,” Spratling said. “I’ve learned leadership skills and met students who were part of the same background but had different perspectives.”

Spratling said that looking back, he wished he was able to be more of a student.

“Being in a small environment, I was challenged,” he said. “A part of change, is just thinking about what you want.”

Miles was approached by a recruitment officer at her high school that led her to Utica College. She described UC as a cultural shock, but she also learned to grow because of her experiences at the college.

She also said that, as the number of black students increased, they wanted to form other organizations.

“BSU became more of an information center for issues on campus,” Miles said. “As I look back now, I don’t look forward to homecoming because I didn’t feel like I was part of the institution.”

Miles offered some advice to the students in attendance. In retrospect, she said she “should have been able to have the BSU and have Utica too.”

“You can do something, but do you believe in what you are doing?” she said. “Utica didn’t do enough to be a part of that process.”

Miles explained that change starts with the students and added that rules and regulations have to be respected.

“A big part of change is asking yourself questions and going over the answers,” she said. “This is a growing period and it’s hard to talk about the future at 17.”

Perry arrived on campus the summer of 1970. Coming from the Bronx, he also described UC as a cultural shock.

He was a member of the basketball team and said that because of that he was able to meet many different people.

“I took it upon myself to get here and make it the very best experience,” he said. “In four years, I had an idea I was going to conquer this environment even though I had no control over it.”

Perry graduated with an urban studies degree and was able to take the things he learned at UC into his career in nonprofit administration.

He applauded some of the faculty and staff members that helped mold him into the person he is today.

“Once I knew I had intelligence, nothing stopped me,” Perry said. “I think mentoring and study groups are essential to success in a college environment.”

Holloway also shared part of her experience as a student, saying that every Friday night at the pub was “black night.”

Towards the end of the event, communications professor Jeff Miller asked a question addressing how the college can move forward and make its hidden history, regarding the black experience, more public.

Miles answered this question, saying that Utica College’s history must be told and training should be put into place for faculty and staff regarding interpersonal communication.

It was also reiterated that similar panels have been happening for a while.

“Despite being in our individual groups, we are still BSU,” Holloway said.


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