Returning to Babson

A meditation for the Babson community as we commence an unusual year.

Article by Christine Coyne ‘21

Three years ago, I was sitting at home in Cleveland, Ohio eagerly waiting to start my freshman year at Babson College and join a lifelong community of leaders, social entrepreneurs, and changemakers. I wasn’t sure what my life was going to look like at a small business school in an east coast town six hundred miles away from the only city I had ever known to be home. The feeling was foreign and I was gut-wrenchingly nervous to meet hundreds of incoming students with very different ideas about what the college experience was supposed to entail. I feared there would be a misalignment of expectations. It was impossible to imagine that I would be entering my final year under the strangest of circumstances – face masks in class, social distancing with the people I’ve grown closest to, trim meals prepared to-go (still haven’t wrapped my head around this one), and once again eagerly waiting to join the Babson community. Now that I’m starting my final year at Babson, nothing feels all that different from the nervousness and unfamiliarity I had felt the summer before my first year. On March 11th, every Babson student’s life was uprooted from a Spring semester that would have otherwise been months full of warm weather, Pub nights, sports games, and most importantly graduation. We returned home, resumed with online classes, and attempted to find a new normal. Seventy-five days later, the entire world watched as a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd in broad daylight. 8 minutes and 45 seconds - a time stamp that marks both the beginning and the end of our country’s dismissive attitude towards black lives and the struggle for liberation. It really didn’t matter where you were interning this summer or what you thought your plans were going to look like for the next few months. It was clear that no Babson student was going to find normal during this time. During the three years that I have attended Babson, students have been outspoken and unafraid to address critical issues that prevail on campus. Whether you’ve attended O.N.E. forums, Uncommon Tables or CWEL circles, it is evident that these spaces spark much-needed discussion, but does not often result in tangible solutions reflective of our community’s apprehensions – a simple ET&A exercise that our student body knows too well, yet cannot execute without administrative support. Racial and gender inequities in classrooms, sports fields, clubs and organizations have been voiced. The lack of support for arts programs, specifically visual arts professors, has been voiced. Concerns regarding funding from countries that have continuously violated human rights has been voiced. I am still trying to understand how a college that promotes “thinking and acting entrepreneurially” cannot apply this same solution-oriented approach to students’ concerns. When I returned to campus this spring from a semester-long abroad program, I was hopeful that new leadership would bring new solutions. Although the semester was cut short, I think the abrupt departure we experienced was especially necessary. The time we have been given is forcing every student, professor and member of the Babson community to reflect on their own lived experiences and think deeply about the kind of establishment and community we hope to become. The student body has undoubtedly evolved from the time we were all together, and I’m challenging myself and my peers to meditate over the following questions. How are the discussions in our classrooms, chapter meetings and sports banquets going to be reflective of the struggle that BIPOC students experience in these spaces? Should we expect to see more intentional engagement and meaningful dialogue from our peers in liberal arts classes? How should we plan to safely connect and maintain relationships with other students in a genuine, but mindful manner that does not jeopardize the health of our community? As student-athletes, members of Greek life, student government leaders, how are we going to hold ourselves and our peers accountable to ensure that racism, homophobia and misogyny cannot and does not prevail on our campus? It is understood now more than ever that our actions and ideas are reflective of the strength and alliance of the Babson community. Returning to Babson will look nothing like we have ever experienced in past years – and I’m honestly looking forward to resetting the expectations for administration and students to lean in and listen closely to the voices that have been traditionally disregarded and overlooked. As we adapt to social distancing rules and cultural shifts in this nation, the Babson student body will be challenged to leverage this transition and create an environment that breathes inclusion and connection.