Barbershop series gives male students place to connect

By Assistant Campus Editor

Courtesy Kimberly Weatherly
Barber Ron Scott gives senior business & entrepreneurship major Deavondre Jones a free haircut during The Barbershop, a program targeted at building community amongst black male students.

In an effort to unite black male students, the Office of Multicultural Affairs hosts The Barbershop, a monthly event meant to foster community while students receive free haircuts.

Each month, male students discuss concerns about academics, personal growth and professional development. The first Barbershop of the semester will be held on Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building on the fourth floor.

Kimberly Weatherly, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said The Barbershop positively affects its participants and the campus as a whole. She said she has watched the program grow from a group of approximately 15  students to approximately 50 people, and she said the students have said they feel a sense of belonging to the institution that they had not experienced before.

“The gentlemen who engage have been able to develop relationships with faculty and staff, and a lot of those relationships grow and develop [into] mentorships,” she said.

Weatherly said the students who have participated in the program appreciate the opportunity to connect with other men in similar situations. She said the main goal of the program is to improve retention rates because most participants do return to the program and institution. Helping students evolve, enabling them to gather and discuss issues pertaining to academics, culture or society is another main focus, Weatherly added.

Daryl Satcher, a professor in the English Department and faculty advisor of The Barbershop, said the program is vital for the social development of black men on campus. He said the need for programs that embrace black males on campus is a necessity to advance the overall atmosphere of the college.

“The brothers feel like they have a sense of community and belonging,” Satcher said. “We don’t have to filter what we say. We say what we feel.”

Satcher said providing a support system to young male students influences how he leads the group. The group also encourages participants to embrace the idea of taking action in their own lives and communities while delivering support to other groups, Satcher said.

“It has truly become a brotherhood since its inception,” Satcher said. “I don’t see as many lost brothers as I saw before, and they began to take ownership of the program and become advocates for it because they’ve seen what it has done in their life.”

Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Success, said The Barbershop is important because it better serves the need for black males to be represented at the college. He said the college does not want the focus of a group like this to be misconstrued by the public, but instead encourage it to reaffirm the initiative for black students to become active members of the college community.

While the Barbershop series is exclusive to men, it examines universal issues throughout all gender identities. These subjects include things such as course load and relationship troubles that are widespread. The series focuses on common problems in hopes to also foster discussion among the attendees regarding those things, according to Kelly.

“For black males to have a place to wrestle with individual and societal issues is very important,” Kelly said.

The program is a concept that has been successful since its inception, Kelly said. He said the college recognizes certain difficulties that different groups may face and supports their needs and interests with programs like these. The college promotes an environment where students can feel comfortable talking about concerns and socializing with fellow classmates.

Additionally, The Barbershop series does not shun men of any other ethnicity and, it — welcomes diversity in the program. The Barbershop program hope to endorse a heightened level of cohesion among them, he said.

“It’s about difficult issues [and] camaraderie, and I have always been so impressed with the concept and how it plays out,” Kelly said.