New affinity group formed on campus

“Men of Philo” creates space to talk about men and masculinity

Sam Paprin| Staff Writer| spaprin@defenderadeleon

Photo by Dakota Thomas Chicha Romain ’25 and Alex Leandry ’23, both co-presidents of “Men of Philo” in Center for student Diversity and Empowerment and Community on Monday.

Chicha Romain ’25 and Alex Leandry ’23, both co-presidents of Men of Philo, set out this semester with the the goal to create a safe space where Black, Indigenous, and People of color, or anyone that identifies as male can have a space and talk about the absence of positive male role models growing up in one’s life, what it means to be a man, and so much more. “Chica and I were kinda talking about, especially with younger men, there aren’t safe spaces where people can talk about their ideas and who they are,” said Leandry. “Being vulnerable in general but especially when it comes to being who they truly are or their true identity.”
After looking at some of the other safe spaces on campus, they realized that there was not one that meets their intended goals. “I just think there really isn’t a space like this on campus, and the goal is to have a men’s and masculine spectrum affinity space, kin to that of the women’s,” Leandry said. The Men of Philo Club meet weekly in the Purposeful Learning Center from 6:30 to 8:00 pm, to provide this space for students to have these conversations.
Sarah Childs, director of Center for Student Diversity, Empowerment, and Community (DEC) oversees Men of Philo, whether it be helping them book rooms on campus, or even bringing snacks into the meetings. “So it’s not a student club, or recognized through SGA, it comes out of the center here (DEC), I fund it and support it,” said Childs. “We will have it as long as students are interested and it is valuable to their lives.”
Leandry and Romain have received positive feedback from participants of Men of Philo saying generally people like and feel comfortable having this space. “This was something Alex and I have discussed, and I felt like it would be a good thing, recognizing the absence of positive male role models in one’s life, and seeing how people can fall through the cracks because there is no positive influence and seeing how there is other spaces for other people on campus I thought it would be necessary for us to have one,” Romain said.
The weekly attendance fluctuates and the group largest meeting had 15 attendees. “I’m glad with what we have so far, and proud of everybody that has taken the chance or risk that comes with being vulnerable and exposing yourself to other people,’’ Romain said. “And I am hoping that other men aren’t too afraid or are willing to expose themselves to the experience and maybe learn a bit, and grow as individuals because sometimes it’s strong to be soft, and you don’t have to be what they made us.”
Another affinity space on campus is DEC, Center for student Diversity and Empowerment and Community, located on the second floor of Alliot in room 223. DEC is sponsoring Men of Philo, and hosts other events in order to support their mission of creating an inclusive space for St. Michael’s students. There are comfy couches and chairs inside of the center, along with video game consoles and a television. When walking into the space, you will feel a warm, welcoming atmosphere, with a space that can be used for many different purposes. From hanging out and taking a break from school, eating a snack on the couch and playing video games with friends, or having conferences in the designated room, DEC can function in many ways to benefit the community on campus.
“When I came to St. Michael’s last year, it was a really challenging thing because I was coming from a different country on a different continent, Africa,” said Olivier Niyonshuti ’25. “When I learned English originally, I learned a different dialect at home. So when I came to St. Michael’s for the first time, having a place like DEC helped me transition a lot and helped me learn a lot about American English. It helped me transition culturally in the way I speak and say things, what is supposed to be said and what is not.”
These groups on campus provide a specific spaces that certain students may not have found in other places. It allows them to grow and flourish with the support of their peers. Groups like Men of Philo are trying to create a comfortable campus at St. Michael’s for all people. “The three main overarching groups that we aim to support as the mission of the center is BIPOC students (the whole spectrum), first generation college students and international students,” Childs said.