By Sam Seymour
On Friday, Jan. 31, Dr. Paul Buckley served his last day as the director of The Butler Center, a position he had held since 2014. Dr. Buckley was the first employed in his position, as The Butler Center itself was created in 2014.
Dr. Buckley’s resignation follows the school’s release of the new Antiracism Implementation Plan, which has incited backlash from a number of students. The plan outlined how the newly-created Senior Associate Dean of Students/Director of the Butler Center position would become part of a three-person team responsible for overseeing the new plan and would directly focus on “antiracism, diversity, and inclusion in student life.”
However, in an open letter to the administration, a coalition of Colorado College students argued that Dr. Buckley was essentially being demoted, as the plan eliminates his position as the Assistant Vice President/Director of The Butler Center and would force him to reapply to be considered for the new, more limited role.
The implications of this policy change were upsetting for people in the community who felt that Dr. Buckley’s work for the school had not been properly respected by the administration. One of the four demands made by the aforementioned open letter was for “a public apology [to] be issued to Dr. Paul Buckley and The Butler Center staff for how the office has been treated regarding the ‘Antiracism’ Implementation Plan.”
In an email to students who signed the open letter, Dr. Buckley informed students of his resignation while thanking them for supporting him. He wrote, “In your Open Letter, you demonstrated a profound regard for truth and respect, and expressed your support for the work we have done, with all its inherent challenges. THANK YOU. I will always remember your action and your care for me and The Butler Center team. Remain strong in your pursuit of what is right and just.”
He also discussed his reasons for leaving, stating, “I enacted this decision with clarity about my values and my worth, commitment to my family, and steadfastness to who I am and who I represent.”
Following Dr. Buckley’s resignation, Dr. Manya Whitaker will serve as the interim director of The Butler Center. Dr. Whitaker is currently an Associate Professor of Education at CC. She has also authored multiple books, such as “Schooling Multicultural Teachers: A Guide for Program Assessment and Professional Development” and “Learning from the Inside-Out: Child Development and School Choice.”
“I am honored to have been asked to serve as the Interim Director of The Butler Center as I was a part of the original envisioning of the enterprise,” said Dr. Whitaker. “I’ve had the pleasure of watching the center develop into a place on campus primarily dedicated to meeting students’ social and emotional needs. I am particularly happy to see programs such as the first-generation program that offers a space for students to comfortably share their experiences and seek support from similar others on a campus where they are certainly minoritized.”
Dr. Whitaker recognizes what Dr. Buckley and The Butler Center have accomplished in the past six years in her plans for the future. “Moving forward, I hope to work with the staff to bolster the things the center has and continues to do well, while also acknowledging areas of growth,” she said.
“Additionally, as an integral part of the Colorado College community, it makes sense that The Butler Center play an active role in enacting the Antiracist Implementation Plan,” Dr. Whitaker continued. “I hope to focus our efforts on those aspects of the plan directly related to students’ well-being, especially because we will be welcoming more students from a range of backgrounds with diverse life experiences. The Butler Center will necessarily play a pivotal role in ensuring that Colorado College can support students once they get here. I am excited to be a part of shaping a more inclusive Colorado College.”
Before arriving at CC, Dr. Buckley, a first-generation college graduate, served as an assistant dean of undergraduate students at Dartmouth College. He then became the inaugural director of the Butler Center, which replaced the Office of Minority and International Students, established on campus in 1990. Dr. Buckley had a widely positive reputation among the student body, as he was known for productive engagement with students about multiple intersecting issues of inequity on campus.
In the open letter, Dr. Buckley is credited for standing up for marginalized students many times, even when support from other members of the administration was not felt. For example, when the now-infamous racist email was sent out in Spring of 2018, Dr. Buckley addressed the student body and assured them of his support. In the aftermath of a 2019 incident in which the hockey house denied access to several students of color, Dr. Buckley reached out to students. Ultimately, an open conversation involving both parties was held in the Glass House. The open letter stated that “in either situation, we did not feel supported by the President or other administrators.”
Some of Buckley’s programmatic initiatives include The Masculinity Project, which “invites masculine-identified undergraduates to discuss and interrogate masculinities, patriarchy, and other critical issues centered on inclusion and equity;” and Excel at CC: Good to Great- Journey to Inclusion, which strives to “deepen one’s understanding of ‘diversity’ and ’inclusion’ as a necessary step in achieving excellence in our work and campus culture.”
Dr. Buckley’s departure is an undeniable loss for the CC community, particularly for those who most closely benefited from his unwavering kindness, support, and commitment to his vital work. However, it is also important to remember and honor his decision and his accomplishments at CC, with an eye to upholding and continuing the progress that he helped to create. His hard work and legacy will be felt by the community for years to come.